Speaking of things cherry, Dr. Amy Iezzoni, Michigan State University Professor of Horticulture, was named the Cherry Industry Person of the Year by the Cherry Marketing Institute (CMI) in conjunction with the National Cherry Festival on July 6. Dr. Iezzoni is a plant geneticist and plant breeder who has focused her scholarship for more than 28 years on developing varieties of cherries that strengthen Michigan’s cherry industry. Dr. Iezzoni does not have an Extension appointment, but her position is funded largely by the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station and reflects the importance of our integration with MAES. Her close attention to industry needs is reflective of the MSUE and MAES commitments to respond to new challenges and opportunities we learn about through our relationships with industry partners like the CMI.
In addition to her own advancements in cherry genetics, Dr. Iezzoni has led a national effort to coordinate research and Extension work among geneticists and breeders with the wider array of plants that belong to the Rosaceae family, which includes apples, plums, peaches, pears and strawberries in addition to cherries. Their team was awarded a four-year, $14.4 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant-funded research project that aims to use knowledge of plant genetics to improve the quality of cherries and other fruits in the globally important botanical family Rosaceae. The grant is the largest awarded by the USDA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative since its inception in 2007. And the project includes an Extension mission that seeks to connect the findings of this broad array of scientists with industry needs and applications.
As a kid who enjoyed climbing our own tart cherry tree for the cherries my older siblings were too short to reach from the ground and too big to be supported by the tree branches, it’s hard for me to imagine what it must be like to be surrounded by cherries in daily work. I think I’d probably weigh considerably more than I do. But I certainly appreciate all that Amy has done to ensure that kids and consumers will have even better cherries to eat in the future – whether they pick them or buy them from a grocer or farm market. You can learn more about Amy’s work and award at http://anrcom.msu.edu/press/070110/070710_iezzoni.htm.