Hort History 101

Hort History 101


The Department of Horticulture at Michigan State University (MSU) is the focus of a recently released book that portrays its history in both words and photographs. The book, From Seed To Fruit: 150 Years Of Horticulture At Michigan State, chronicles the development of the Department of Horticulture from 1855-2005.

MSU was founded in 1855 as Michigan Agricultural College, and it went through many transformations before developing into the lauded university it is today. Photographs in the book offer readers an image of these changes, dating as far back as the 1930s. The photographs depict MSU buildings, staff, and even early agriculture equipment. There are also color photographs of the gardens that currently add flair to the MSU campus.

The topics covered in the book include research conducted by the department in variety breeding and selection, tree fruit pruning and training, rootstocks, pest management, and mechanical harvesting. The story about how MSU became a leader in research on dwarfing rootstocks is included. In 1976, Robert Carlson, a professor in the Department of Horticulture, established the North Central Pome and Stone Fruit rootstock testing programs (NC-140). Many states followed MSU’s lead, establishing protocols for comparing the same cultivar-rootstock combinations. NC-140 went on to become the model of all regional projects in the U.S.

Those in the agriculture industry may recognize a number of the researchers featured in the book. For example, Frederick Bradford and Horace Cardinell compiled data on conditions conducive to freeze injury. This study, conducted in 1926, was the first step in developing methods to reduce injury to plants that were already established.

The authors of the book are Frank Dennis, Jr., former associate professor in horticulture at MSU; George Kessler, former professor and researcher in horticulture at MSU; and the late Harold Davidson, former professor and Extension specialist in nursery crops at MSU.

From Seed To Fruit: 150 Years of Horticulture At Michigan State can be ordered via MSU’s Web site at www.shop.msu.edu. Orders and payments can also be sent to: Dept. of Horticulture, Attn: F. Dennis, Michigan State Univ., E. Lansing, MI 48824-1325. The price of the book is $26.50 plus the cost of shipping and handling. Checks should be made payable to Michigan State University.