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Award-winning contemporary artist and Syracuse University art professor Sam Van Aken grew up on a family farm in Reading, Pennsylvania, but he spent his college years and much of his early career focused on art rather than agriculture. While Van Aken says that his work has always been "inspired by nature and our relationship to nature," it wasn't until recently that the artist's farming background became such a clear and significant influence, first in 2008 when he grafted vegetables together to create strange plants for his Eden exhibition, and then shortly after that when he started to work on the hybridized fruit trees that would become the Tree of 40 Fruit.

Each tree begins as a slightly odd-looking specimen resembling some kind of science experiment, and for much of the year, looks like just any other tree. In spring, the trees bloom to reveal an incredibly striking and thought-provoking example of what can happen when nature inspires art. Then, over the course of several months, Van Aken's trees produce an incredible harvest of plums, peaches, apricots, nectarines, and almonds, including many you've likely never seen before.

Thus far, Van Aken has created and placed 16 trees in museums, community centers, and private art collections around the country, including in Newton, Massachusetts; Pound Ridge, New York; Short Hills, New Jersey; Bentonville, Arkansas; and San Jose, California. Using a unique process he calls "sculpture through grafting," Van Aken creates trees that grow and support more than 40 varieties of stone fruit, including many heirloom, antique, and native varieties.

On the heels of Van Aken's TEDxManhattan talk, we spoke with him about the Tree of 40 Fruit, how he developed and executed the concept, his plans for the future, and what happens to all that fruit.

Epicurious: What is the Tree of 40 Fruit and what inspired the project?

Sam Van Aken: At the time this project began I was doing a series of radio hoaxes where I hijacked commercial radio station frequencies and played my own commercials and songs. In addition to becoming acquainted with FCC regulations I also discovered that the term "hoax" comes from "hocus pocus," which in turn comes from the Latin "hoc est enim corpus miem," meaning "this is my body" and it's what the Catholic priest says over the bread during [the] Eucharist, transforming it into the body of Christ. This process is known as transubstantiation and [it] led me to wonder how I could transubstantiate a thing. How could the appearance of a thing remain the same while the reality changed? And so, I transubstantiated a fruit tree. Through the majority of the year it is a normal-looking fruit tree until spring when it blossoms in different tones [of] pink, white, and crimson, and late in summer it bears [more than] 40 different types of fruit.

Epi: What is the goal of the Tree of 40 Fruit and what do you hope to communicate?

SVA: First and foremost I see the tree as an artwork. Like the hoaxes I was doing, I want the tree to interrupt and transform the everyday. When the tree unexpectedly blossoms in different colors, or you see these different types of fruit hanging from its branches, it not only changes the way you look at it, but it changes the way you perceive [things] in general.

As the project evolved, it took on more goals. In trying to find different varieties of stone fruit to create the Tree of 40 Fruit, I realized that for various reasons, including industrialization and the creation of enormous monocultures, we are losing diversity in food production and that heirloom, antique, and native varieties that were less commercially viable were disappearing. I saw this as an opportunity to, in some way, preserve these varieties. In addition to maintaining these varieties in my nursery, I graft them to the Tree of 40 Fruit. Additionally, when I place a Tree of 40 Fruit, I go to local farmers and growers to collect stone fruit varieties and graft them to the trees. In this way they become an archive of the agricultural history of where they are located as well as a means to preserve antique and native varieties.

Epi: You've described your artistic process as "sculpting by way of grafting." Could you explain what that means?

SVA: I currently work with over 250 varieties of stone fruit and developed a timeline of when they blossom in relationship to each other. By grafting these different varieties onto the tree in a certain order I can essentially sculpt how the tree is to blossom.

Epi: Why did you choose to work with stone fruits?

SVA: Stone fruits have [a] greater diversity among the species, and are the most inter-compatible. Although it gets tricky when you start to graft cherries, for the most part one can easily graft between plums, peaches, apricots, nectarines, and even almonds.

Epi: Where and how did you acquire all the different fruit varieties?

SVA: My primary source for most of these varieties was the New York State Agricultural Experiment Stationin Geneva, New York. When I began the project there was an orchard at the Experiment Station with hundreds of different plum and apricot varieties. They planned to tear this orchard out, so I picked up the lease until I could graft all of these varieties onto the trees in my nursery.

Epi: How long does it take to create one of your trees?

SVA: Depending on when the tree is planted it takes about five years to develop each tree and graft 40 varieties to it.

Epi: Do you continue to work on the trees after they're planted?

SVA: After the tree has been planted, I visit it twice a year, in the spring to prune and [in] late summer to graft, for three years, until the tree is established.

Epi: What happens to all the fruit from your trees?

SVA: Until I discovered garlic and peppermint repellents, they were a huge hit with the local deer, but fortunately we've resolved that. I've been told by people that have [a tree] at their home that it provides the perfect amount and perfect variety of fruit. So rather than having one variety that produces more than you know what to do with, it provides good amounts of each of the 40 varieties. Since all of these fruit ripen at different times, from July through October, you also aren't inundated.

Personally, I give away most of the fruit that comes from my trees. For people who aren't aware of farming and growing, the diversity of these varieties and their characteristic tastes are surprising and they ultimately begin to question why there are only a few types of plums, one type of apricot, and a handful of peach varieties at their local market.

Epi: Each of your trees has the capacity to grow more than 40 different varieties of stone fruits. Can you explain the significance of the number 40?

SVA: The number 40 has been used throughout Western religion to represent a number beyond counting. [Being] interested in this idea of a bounty of fruit coming from one tree, 40 seemed appropriate.

Epi: Do you have any plans for the future of this project?

SVA: I would like to continue to place these trees throughout the country preserving these heirloom, antique, and native fruit varieties. Wherever I place them there is a sense of wonderment that they create through their blossoms, the different fruit, and the process by which they are created.

Eventually, I would like to create a grove or small orchard of these trees in an urban setting. I have always stayed away from artwork that educates people, but to some extent these works in addition to being beautiful and producing fruit cause one to reconsider the possibilities with food and fruit production.

Tree of Prosperity - One tree with 5 different citrus fruits

Mr. Giap trims his ornamental trees Giap's attraction to ornamental trees

Going through the winding path along orange orchards, we found Le Duc Giap’s grafting trees in his orange orchard. He invited us a cup of tea and told us about his interest in orange trees.

He was born into a poor family in 1954. In 1975 married Nguyen Thi Thanh, a girl from a nearby village, and decided to go to the city to find job to earn a living. However, he could only live from hand to mouth.

An orange ornamental tree with five different fruits including Malaysian orange, Canh tangerines, grapefruits, Buddha’s Hand citron, and the common tangerine.

He made up his mind to return home He noticed Van Giang oranges suited the local soil and climate. He managed to acquire growing techniques from farms and other sources, and devoted his 1,000m2 rice fields to orange orchards. His orange orchards saw a good harvest in 2002 and his oranges were chosen to be introduced at a fruit exhibition by the city’s industry promotion center.

Apart from supplying oranges for stores across the country, he paid attention to ornamental orange trees to be sold on the Lunar New Year Festival and continued to learn how to produce ornamental orange trees.

In 2006, as he implanted an orange graft onto an old grapefruit tree owned by his neighbors. He found that the orange graft could normally blossom and yield fruit. He was so excited that he immediately piloted more grafts on an orange tree, including Malaysia Oranges  and  several kinds of grapefruit.

Due to a lack of practical experience and technical knowledge, his work seemed to be less effective. He was not discouraged and continued to try after acquiring more orange growing experience and techniques. For example, grapefruit and oranges should be grafted in June and Malaysian oranges and tangerines in July.

The grafts must be the same type of citrus fruit. In addition, a successful transplant requires experience and sensitive hands. To produce an ornamental orange tree, he had to travel to remote areas to buy grafts.

Le Duc Giap said, “The first criterion for orange growers is to create a healthy orange tree that can withstand diseases and harsh weather. Unlike other conventional orange trees, Cao Vien oranges develop on grapefruit trees which are highly resistant to water logging and pests.”

His family has hundreds of ornamental orange trees and a dozens of trees bearing five different citrus fruits, worth of hundreds of millions of dong.

TomTato plant grows both tomatoes and potatoes

"...A bizarre plant which produces both tomatoes and potatoes, providing a 'veg plot i
n a pot', has been launched in the UK..."
It sounds like something from a science fiction film, but a plant which produces both potatoes and tomatoes has been launched in the UK.
The TomTato™ can grow more than 500 sweet cherry tomatoes above ground, while beneath the soil it produces white potatoes that are suitable for boiling, roasting or turning into chips.

Horticultural mail order company Thompson & Morgan, which is selling the plants for £14.99 each, described their new product as a “veg plot in a pot”.

The hybrid plants are not a product of genetic engineering, but are each individually hand-grafted. Like potatoes, tomatoes are members of the nightshade family (Solanaceae), which makes them compatible for grafting.

Grafted potato/tomato plants have been around for decades, including from some small British nurseries, but Thompson & Morgan say this is the first time the plants have been widely produced commercially in the UK.

Paul Hansord, horticultural director at the company, said he first had the idea for the plant 15 years ago in the US, when he visited a garden where someone had planted a potato under a tomato plant as a joke.

"It started me thinking about whether it was feasible to do this in reality. I parked the idea until four or five years ago in Italy, when I visited a company involved in the commercial grafting business. It didn't work out with that company but then I was in Holland and found another company willing to give it a try."

Trials ran for three years before the results were deemed successful, and the company says it can now produce up to 34,000 plants annually.

Mr Hansord said it was "very difficult to achieve the TomTato because the tomato stem and the potato stem have to be the same thickness for the graft to work - it is a very highly-skilled operation.
"They start off joined together by a plastic clip, then the clip pops off as they grow and they're transferred into a 9cm pot and grow normally."

The plants can be grown either outside or inside, as long as they are in a large pot or bag. Thompson & Morgan refused to disclose which varieties of tomato and potato they had used, for fear of being imitated, but said that the cherry tomatoes were far sweeter than those available in supermarkets.

A similar product, dubbed the 'Potato Tom', was launched in garden centres in New Zealand this week, but Mr Hansord said this was a coincidence.

'Double-crop' plants like the TomTato could be extremely useful in the future, as they help populations grow more food in smaller spaces. A few years ago, a prison in Kenya trialled grafted tomato-potato plants, which led to local farmers also trying the technique. A prison official said the plant helped locals “save on space, time and labour without affecting the quality of their producE 

 

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Comment by ❝Aησσşħαч❞ on December 31, 2014 at 1:46pm

Nice sharing...

Comment by Élégant Chaudhry on December 29, 2014 at 12:02pm
kamal hy
Comment by + ★ HAMMAD ★ on December 28, 2014 at 6:35pm

nice sharing 


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Comment by Mrs Ehsan on December 27, 2014 at 7:13pm

kamal ha yaaar


STUDY ADMIN
Comment by +*PŔĨŃČĔŚŚ*+ on December 27, 2014 at 2:40pm

Amazing......

Comment by Muddasar Ali ( S.admin ) on December 27, 2014 at 2:14pm

amazing

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