Ph.D., Horticulture, 2009. Cornell University
M.S., Horticulture, 2004. Washington State University
B.S., Comparative Religion, 1994. University of Vermont
My research addresses the challenges of producing tree fruits sustainably and profitably within Virginia. My work crosses disciplinary fields, and I often collaborate with colleagues in soil science, entomology, food science, plant pathology, agricultural economics, and agricultural education.
My past research examined organic, integrated fruit production (IFP), and conventional apple orchards using a systems-based approach. This means that I managed experimental orchards under these production systems and then compared and contrasted various features of the orchard agroecosystem. For example, within these projects I measured crop productivity, insect and disease control efficacy and damage, soil quality and soil ecology, fertilizer and groundcover management practices, the maturity, phytochemical, and sensory quality of fruit, economic viability, and environmental impacts. The broad scope of my research allows me to study fruit production from many different perspectives.
Currently, I am forwarding the on-going research projects at the AHS, Jr. AREC that look at improving crop-load management in apples through the application of exogenous chemicals and developing a better understanding of the interactions between environmental effects and plant growth regulators. I am also collaborating with colleagues at the Center to evaluate the performance of crack resistant sweet cherry varieties and apple rootstocks under Virginia conditions.
In addition, I have a strong interest in value-added products and niche crops, such as hard cider and perry, native fruits, and heirloom fruit varieties.
In my extension work, I aspire to engage stakeholders in a dialogue that fosters critical thinking and active participation in understanding a given situation. I enjoy working with a wide-range of stakeholders, from highly experienced to new farmers, large to small scale, singly focused to highly diversified, and who use a range of management practices on their farms. I aim to help growers maximize the profitability and productivity of their current production systems, and explore new opportunities for Virginia’s farmers.
Recently, I co-authored and published A Grower’s Guide to Organic Apples, a science-based extension publication that compiles and distills information from university research trials, making the essential components of organic apple production available to growers, extension educators, crop consultants, researchers, and others who desire to produce organic apples. The Guide includes seventeen chapters and three appendices that describe organic certification regulations, site selection and orchard design, disease resistant rootstocks and cultivars (nearly 50 disease-resistant apple cultivars are listed), soil fertility and ground-cover management, crop-load management, organically approved pesticides, key pests and diseases, harvest and post-harvest handling, and estimated costs of production. A Grower’s Guide to Organic Apples is available as a free download.
In combination with traditional outreach methods, I aim to make technology a strong component of my extension programming. For example, Web-based instructional videos are proving to be an effective tool for providing a decentralized audience with accurate research-based information. Engaging stakeholders through interactive applications, such as wikis, blogs, and social networking tools may help stimulate peer-to-peer conversations thereby making extension education and information more accessible to a diverse audience.
Please visit my website again soon to learn more about my upcoming outreach activities.