Jayson Harper has been named director of Penn State University’s Fruit Research and Extension Center. Harper, who’d been serving as interim director since March 1, will oversee all personnel and financial activities while providing strategic vision for the center, according to a news release.

Jayson Harper

Located in Biglerville, in Adams County, the Fruit Research and Extension Center (FREC) is an important resource for the state’s fruit industry, which produces apples, peaches and other tree fruits valued at more than $100 million annually. With support from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the fruit industry and other sources, the center creates science-based knowledge and innovative solutions that help keep the industry strong and viable. Methods and recommendations generated from research at the center are disseminated to growers and processors through Penn State extension programs.

Invasive species, plant diseases, climate change and labor shortages are among the fruit industry’s top concerns that FREC researchers and extension specialists are addressing, Harper said in a statement.

“At FREC, we strive to be at the forefront in managing invasive pests and testing innovative fruit production systems,” he said. “We are making major efforts to help growers manage invasive species like brown marmorated stink bug, spotted wing drosophila and spotted lanternfly. With support from the State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania, we are making necessary investments in facilities to develop and test labor-saving agricultural engineering technologies.”

Harper, a professor of agricultural economics, joined Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences faculty in 1989. His research has centered on risk management and crop production economics. He has studied various economic aspects of horticultural and agronomic crops, including the economic impact of invasive species, alternative peach and apple production systems, mechanical harvesters, fruit quality, pesticide selection criteria and crop insurance, according to the release.

— by Matt Milkovich