WSU hires viticulture specialist
Michelle Moyer has a doctorate in plant pathology from Cornell.
Dr. Michelle Moyer
Michelle Moyer’s original plan was to return home after college graduation and join the family nursery and landscape business in Wisconsin. But instead, she’s coming to Washington State to work in the grape industry.
Moyer starts February 1 as the viticultural extension specialist for Washington State University, filling a void left since 2009 when Mercy Olmstead moved to the University of Florida. Moyer, who graduated with doctorate degree in plant pathology last summer from Cornell University, said that it was her thesis project that changed her career path. “The viticulture project I worked on for my doctorate got me excited about grapes and I fell in love with the wine grape industry,” she said.
While at Cornell, she developed a powdery mildew risk assessment model to help eastern U.S. grape growers optimize disease control. “The climate in New York is so different than on the West Coast. The model wasn’t so much to help growers reduce sprays, but to help them minimize their risk from powdery mildew and have a better tool to help them make decisions.”
Moyer admits that she’s always liked wine and even worked at a winery as a graduate student. She grew up in agriculture and notes that the nursery industry is similar to viticulture—both are perennial crops, require pruning and disease and pest management, to name a few. She believes that her agricultural background provided her with practical experience and will be an asset in her new role.
She plans to tour the state’s grape growing regions in the first few months to meet growers and wine industry members and learn about major issues. “I have an East Coast perspective and I want to learn about West Coast issues,” Moyer said, adding that she will also be shifting her disease discipline to more general disciplines of plant physiology, viticulture, and vineyard management.