Saturday, October 24, 2009

Forbes Residential College Organic Garden

Name: Forbes Residential College Organic Garden, aka “The Garden Project”

Location: Princeton, New Jersey (Princeton University)

Years: September 2006-present

Funded by: The Office of Sustainability and the High Meadows Foundation

Researcher: First student manager was Ruthie Schwab ‘09

The Office of Sustainability and the High Meadows foundation funded a 1.5-acre organic garden that is run by students. The garden is located near Forbes College, off of Alexander Street and next to the Springdale golf course. The garden provides produce for the Forbes Dining Hall, the Graduate College Dining Hall, and local businesses like a pizza place and artisan ice cream shop. There is also a composting area and an area for washing produce on the site. One of the main goals of this garden is to educate Princeton students as well as the local community about organic gardening. Though this garden is mainly overseen by the Office of Sustainability, it also has connections to many other campus groups, including Greening Princeton, Slow Food Princeton, Forbes College, the Princeton Environmental Network, the Farmers’ Market that takes place every Tuesday on campus, and other academic departments.

As far as future plans go, the Garden Project is hoping to expand its harvest by extending the growing season into the winter using “coldframes”, which are essentially mini-greenhouses. They would also like to build one larger greenhouse and a tool shed.

I think this project is successful at demonstrating to Princeton students just how much can be done by students like us, our peers--not professional gardeners with extensive training and education. For instance, this garden grows 20 different types of lettuce! Indeed, this garden is meant to be just that: a demonstration garden. There are several lectures a year and special dinners that are hosted at the garden site in an attempt to raise awareness and encourage involvement. I think this project is successful on a small scale, though it would be nice to see it expand in the future.

Use of Female Insect Pheromones as an Alternative Pesticide

Name: Use of female insect pheromones as an alternative pesticide

Location: Ithaca, New York (New York State Agricultural Experiment Station at Cornell University)

Years: 1989-present, with a major new breakthrough in 2005

Researcher: Wendell Roelofs

Wendell Roelofs is a lead researcher and professor of insect biochemistry at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station at Cornell University, and he has been nicknamed “the father of pheromone chemistry”. For the past several decades, he has been working with insect pheromones as an alternative to conventional chemical pesticides. In 1989, he had his first breakthrough while working with the grape moth. In an attempt to prevent damage done to crops by the grape moth, researchers placed ties laced with female grape moth pheromones around the vineyard. Without harming the moths, these pheromones confused the male moth’s reproductive cycle enough so they couldn’t lay the larvae that caused most of the crop damage.

In 2005, Roelofs and his colleagues had another breakthrough, this time with the German cockroach, which is the most common type of cockroach in North America and is responsible for substantial food damage, both in the fields as well as in storage in factories. The German cockroach also carries bacteria that can contribute to many diseases. Roelofs learned how to isolate the pheromones of the female German cockroach and create a synthetic version. The new isolated female pheromone technology & synthetic version has drawn interest from several major corporations who wish to use this as an insecticide or a trap; the technology has been patented and is licensed to several manufacturers of cockroach bait.

The use of insect pheromones as an alternative to chemical pesticides is still in the earlier phases of research, but it is a promising idea that has a lot of potential for future use in crop fields on a larger scale. It is much less harmful to our environment than chemical pesticides are.