Our faculty and staff work collaboratively with commercial growers, industry specialists, and other universities to conduct applied research and communicate the results to the state of Minnesota and beyond. Our work lays the foundation for educational materials that help farmers, hobbyists, and businesses understand best practices for managing horticultural crops.
Through field days, on-site trials, webinars, publications, and other modes, our work extends beyond the confines of the University and into the public sphere.
Examples of Current Outreach Activities
The following are just a few examples of outreach activities from the Department of Horticultural Science:
In partnership with Extension, the turfgrass program led by Brian Horgan and Eric Watkins is conducting breeding and management research that will lead to low-input lawns, parks, sports fields, and golf courses. On-site research trials at local golf courses, parks, and roadways not only lead to more information for homeowners on managing turfgrass, but also lead to the development of turfgrass varieties that are better suited to our local climate. The program also reaches out to the public through annual events like the School of Turfgrass Management and the Virtual Field Day.
The greenhouse crop and floriculture Extension program is coordinated by Professor John Erwin, whose research focuses on the impact of temperature and light on greenhouse crops. He works with greenhouses across Minnesota and the United States to schedule flowering and increase yield. Professor Erwin is also identifying new crops, including cacti and succulents, that have potential as new ornamentals in Minnesota and the U.S., and is developing protocols to produce them. He is also looking at new ways to grow plants in buildings using LEDs, and innovative systems—such as aquaponics—to grow food crops.
Professor Cindy Tong collaborates with Extension Service and other University of Minnesota colleagues, non-profit and governmental organizations, and grower groups to help develop educational programs for Minnesota fresh market fruit and vegetable growers. Much of Professor Tong’s work focuses on cost-effective postharvest handling and storage practices that help keep food safe for public consumption and farmers profitable. Each year, Professor Tong also collaborates in planning the Immigrant and Minority Farmers Conference, which draws over 200 attendees.
Ornamental and Native Grasses
Professor Mary Hockenberry Meyer conducts field evaluations in the North American Plant Collection Consortium (NAPCC) Grass Collection at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. This work has resulted in plant recommendations for growers and retailers in the Upper Midwest, as well as for home gardeners. The collection—one site for the National Grass Evaluations—is open to the public with Arboretum admission and is located near the Maze Garden. Professor Meyer also writes information for home gardeners on a variety of horticultural topics, including sustainable gardening and using native grasses.
Professor Vincent Fritz presents lectures and exhibits such as the “Chemopreventive Café” to inform consumers about his research on production systems that can enhance chemopreventive benefit potential in vegetable and spice crops. He works closely with commercial fresh market and processing industries—such as the Minnesota Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and the Midwest Food Processors Association—to develop educational conferences and field days. Professor Fritz is also one of the core course instructors of the state Master Gardener Program.