Vegetable Breeder and Calvin Noyes Keeney Assistant Professor of Plant Breeding
Michael’s vegetable breeding program is focused on cultivar development and associated genomic studies of pea, cucurbit and pepper crops for organic and conventional systems. His grower-driven traits focus on fungal and insect resistances in regionally adapted backgrounds to provide a reliable, productive harvest and reduce the need for pesticide applications. His consumer-driven traits focus on color, quality, flavor and novelty to drive the consumption of naturally nutritious food.
Michael has released ‘Habanada’, a mild habanero pepper, and ‘Honeynut’ which is a miniature butternut squash with uncommonly good quality due to a cross to buttercup squash decades ago in its pedigree. Buttercup contributes a fine-grained texture and a rind that starts out green; only a ‘Honeynut’ with a solid deep orange rind is all the way ripe. Unlike a buttercup squash, ‘Honeynut’ is much less susceptible to vine borers and cucumber beetles, meaning the squash is easier to grow without pesticides. Like most butternut squash, ‘Honeynut’ requires a long growing season. Curing should be done with care because ‘Honeynut’ has a thin rind and dries out easily. Currently, Michael is developing new versions of ‘Honeynut’ through field trials with Jack Algiere at Stone Barns Center and tastings with Dan Barber of Blue Hill restaurant.