Washington State University has appointed Dr. Desmond Layne, a professor at Clemson University in South Carolina, to the new position of tree fruit extension team leader, effective in January. The position was created after Washington apple and pear growers voted last year to pay a special assessment to support additional research and extension at WSU.
This is the first of five new extension and technology transfer positions to be created. Layne’s responsibility will be to lead WSU’s tree fruit extension and outreach activities. He will be based at the Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee.
Filling this position was the top priority identified by the industry endowment advisory committee, which is advising WSU on how the new funds raised through the assessment should be spent said Dr. Dan Bernardo, dean of the College of Agriculture, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences.
Layne currently holds an extension and teaching appointment at Clemson University, where he leads the extension team for horticulture. He also conducts applied research. He has developed a comprehensive extension program for orchardists, using publications, Web posts, meetings, and other types of media to reach his audiences.
Layne grew up in Canada, where his father, Dr. Richard E.C. Layne, led the Agriculture Canada stone fruit breeding program at Harrow, Ontario, from 1963 to 1996. Des earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from the University of Guelph in Ontario in 1986. He earned a master’s degree in horticulture and a doctorate in pomology from Michigan State University. He was a horticulturist at Kentucky State University from 1993 until 1997 when he went to Clemson.
WSU’s special research assessment on apples and pears is expected to raise $27 million over the next eight years and fund several new endowed research positions as well as the extension positions. A new pomologist position, also based in Wenatchee, is expected to be filled soon.
A second referendum on a special research assessment on Washington cherries and stone fruits will be held in early to mid-December. A majority of cherry and stone fruit growers did not vote in favor in the first referendum last year. The proposed rates are $4 a ton for cherries and $1 a ton for stone fruits—the same rate as apples and pears.
After growing up on a Michigan dairy farm, Richard Lehnert began writing about farming in 1962, while still a junior studying journalism at Michigan State University. He worked at newspapers for a year before joining the staff of Michigan Farmer, where he spent 26 years, the last 15 as chief editor. He was a member of the staff of Good Fruit Grower from 2010 until 2015.
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