Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 12:00 PM
Stefano Musacchi hire 'solidified the region's status as an international leader'
By DAN WHEAT
WENATCHEE, Wash. -- An internationally recognized research professor in tree fruit science has been hired by Washington State University as an endowed chair in tree fruit physiology and management.
Stefano Musacchi is assistant professor in the University of Bologna's Department of Fruit Tree and Woody Plant Sciences in Bologna, Italy. He is familiar with Pacific Northwest tree fruit production, having visited the region numerous times in his 20-plus-year career. He starts in August.
The position is funded by the state. Support personnel and equipment are funded, in part, by an endowment from a $27 million investment by apple and pear growers as part of the Campaign for WSU.
"Bringing Stefano to Washington further solidified the region's status as an international leader in tree fruit production and research," said Dan Bernardo, vice president for agriculture and extension at WSU.
"His experience in orchard systems, fruit physiology and the biochemistry of grafting bring incredible depth and breadth to our already world-class team of tree fruit research and extension experts," Bernardo said.
Jim Doornink, chair of the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, said Musacchi's experience will immediately benefit Washington's tree fruit industry and puts new emphasis on horticultural research.
"The industry has needed a strong generalist in apple and pear horticulture who can hit the ground running and work directly in orchards with growers and conduct basic lab research," said Jake Gutzwiler, a cherry grower, quality control manager for Stemilt Growers Inc., and chair of the WSU Endowment Advisory Committee.
The industry is looking to Musacchi to coordinate research and identify long-term areas of focus, Gutzwiler said.
Less than a month ago, WSU hired Desmond Layne of Clemson University as tree fruit extension program leader at the WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee. His position also is an endowed chair. He is to begin in February.
The hirings give WSU two strong leaders to keep research and extension coordinated and focused on industry challenges, Gutzwiler said.
When asked the salaries of Musacchi and Layne, WSU spokesman Brian Clark and WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center Director Jay Brunner would not provide them. Clark said Bernardo told him they could be obtained through a freedom of information act request.
Budgets for support staff for the new endowed chairs have not been determined, Clark said.
Musacchi and Layne will both be stationed at the center in Wenatchee. Brunner said both are tremendous additions. The hirings demonstrate WSU's commitment to hire the best scientists in the world for the industry, Brunner said.
At Bologna, Italy's oldest university, Musacchi has an active research program that has attracted almost $6 million in the past eight years. He has worked on numerous crops including apple, pear, cherry, peach and quince. He has more than 110 publications in English and Italian.