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Charles Embree (left) is outstanding researcher of the year. Bill Craig wins Outstanding Extension Worker. (Richard Lehnert/Good Fruit Grower)

Charles Embree (left) is outstanding researcher of the year. Bill Craig wins Outstanding Extension Worker. (Richard Lehnert/Good Fruit Grower)

The International Tree Fruit Association named Charles Embree its 2015 Outstanding Researcher of the Year during its 58th annual conference held in Halifax, Nova Scotia, last week.

Embree, recently retired, began working as a tree fruit specialist with the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture in 1963. In 1982, he moved to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to become a research scientist in tree fruit physiology. He was the reference coordinator for the United States North Central Regional Research-140 committee, which evaluates rootstocks; a member of the United States Germplasm Committee; and a member of the Northeast Plant Growth Regulator working group.

The award was presented to Embree by Dr. Terence Robinson, the Cornell University horticulturist who was himself inducted into the IFTA Hall of Fame during the meeting.

He joins a select group of eight inducted since 2006. Outgoing IFTA president Phil Schwallier, a Michigan State University tree fruit educator from Sparta, Michigan, presented the award to Robinson, who announced that he would, in July, begin a three-year sabbatical, during which he will do mission work for his church in northern Mexico. Robinson was born and raised there.

Robinson has arranged to continue his two biggest projects—perfecting the tall spindle orchard design and apple thinning using the carbohydrate model—through two postdoctoral researchers, Drs. Poliana Francescatto and Jaume Lordan Sanahuja.

Lordan Sanahuja is from the Spanish province of Catalonia, where he grew up on a farm and later earned his doctorate at the University of Barcelona.

“I would like to continue research in physiology and orchard management, selecting the right rootstocks/cultivars and adapting their canopy management such as planting space, pruning, and cropload management techniques to get higher yields,” Sanahuja told Good Fruit Grower.

Francescatto grew up on a farm in Brazil. “Between 2010 and 2014 I did my PhD studies in a joint research program between Santa Catarina Federal University (Brazil), Epagri (Caçador Research Station, Brazil) and the Ohio State University sponsored by an Intergovernmental Scholarship,” Francescatto told Good Fruit Grower.

During postdoctoral studies, Francescatto conducted field experiments on plant growth regulators in Brazil. “Together with other researchers I was also able to validate two apple thinning models developed in the United States, the Lakso-Robinson carbohydrate model and the Greene fruit growth model, in sub-temperate growing conditions.”

Outstanding Extension

The outstanding extension worker award went to Bill Craig, a tree fruit horticulturist who recently retired from his work with Nova Scotia fruit growers through the extension system there, called Perennia Food and Agriculture, Inc.

Craig worked for AgraPoint before Perennia was created in 2012 as a new agency of the Canadian government.

Craig’s work is now being carried on by horticulture crops specialist Chris Duyvelshoff, who works from the agency’s office in Kentville.

Growers of the year

Duyvelshoff presented the Grower of the Year award to John Eisses, of Centreville. Eisses is one of the largest Honeycrisp growers in Canada and is reputed to get the highest apple yields in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley.

Eisses and his wife, Trudy, farm with their two sons—Peter and his wife, Shanna, and Dave—and daughter Mary-Ellen and son-in-law Ryan Swanson.

Lisa Jenereaux, the orchard manager for Spurr Brothers Farms in Kingston, also received a Grower of the Year award. The orchard is part of a large operation that includes 800 acres, and she—daughter of Bill Spurr—manages 100 acres, mostly of apples but also six acres of pears growing in a high-density, bi-axis, v-trellis system. She was a guiding force in organizing the IFTA meeting in Nova Scotia. “I’m on the awards committee and I didn’t know,” she said about the surprise recognition.

The award was presented to Jenereaux by Steve Blizzard, a former president of IFTA inducted into its hall of fame in 2008. Blizzard now manages 3,000 acres of stone fruits, grapes, and blueberries for Lagomarsino Group in Visalia, California. He was master of ceremonies for the awards banquet and delivered the Carlson Lecture, in which he recounted the history of IFTA from its birth in Michigan in 1958, when dwarfing rootstocks were just appearing on the horizon.

Industry service

Working with Jenereaux and Chris Duyvelschoff to organize the meeting was Larry Lutz, who was given the industry service award. Since 1988, Lutz has been the grower technical advisor for Scotian Gold Cooperative, which packs most of the Nova Scotia apple crop for its grower/members.

Also a grower with 70 acres of high-density apples and peaches, Lutz has reduced his work with Scotian Gold to two days a week to devote more time to his own orchards. Neal Manly of Willow Drive Nursery presented the award to Lutz of Scotian Gold, who said: “This industry has given me more than I ever gave it.”

New board

Incoming IFTA vice president Rod Farrow, Waterport, New York, and incoming president Tim Welsh, of Columbia Fruit Packers in Wenatchee, Washington, commended outgoing president Phil Schwallier for his service. “You’re more than just farmers, more than just fruit growers, you’re family to me,” Schwallier said. IFTA presidents serve two-year terms.

New president Welch thanked outgoing board members Trevor Meachum of High Acres Fruit Farm in Hartford, Michigan, Sam DiMaria of Kelowna, British Columbia, and Terence Robinson.

New board members elected during the conference are Craig Tanner, Speer, Illinois; Tom DeMarree, Williamson, New York; and Karen Lewis, Washington State University extension, Ephrata, Washington. Reelected for another term were Jeff Cleveringa, Starr Ranch, Wenatchee, Washington; Chris Hedges, Martin’s Family Fruit Farm, Vanessa, Ontario; and Lisa Jenereaux.