She’s doing what needs to be done

A May 28 NPR broadcast of “All Things Considered” features Michigan State University horticulture professor Amy Iezzoni. Dr. Iezzoni is the nation’s only tart cherry breeding specialist. Although, she doesn’t have an Extension appointment, her work certainly relates directly to our Extension work.

The piece is titled “Inside a Tart Cherry Revival: ‘Somebody Needs to Do This!’” The quote is Dr. Iezzoni’s, referring to her quest to diversify Michigan’s varieties of tart cherries. The importance of variety was made clear when cherry trees froze last year after an early bloom. Because the cherry trees were genetically identical, they all bloomed together and thus froze at the same time. If other varieties were in play that bloomed later, perhaps some of the crop could have been saved.

Dr. Iezzoni is a great example of a hard-working, resourceful person whose quest to improve the Michigan cherry industry led her to the orchards and streets of Eastern Europe. Her goal: a variety of tart cherry that blooms later, tastes delicious and produces a big crop.

Dr. Iezzoni also serves as the lead investigator on a five-year $14.5 million project to apply modern, Marker-Assisted Breeding (MAB) techniques to improving the genetic lines of fruit species in the Rosaceae family, including apples, cherries, peaches, plums and strawberries. Named the RosBREED Project, it incorporates all the hallmarks of a land-grant effort: research, extension and the education of the next generation of scientists. The project includes scientists from Arkansas, Georgia, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington and several European countries. I was fortunate to join the team at a reception during a recent conference held in East Lansing. What struck me most was the realization that I was meeting not only the current leaders in plant breeding in these important fruit species but also the next generation of breeders joining in the work. Dr. Iezzoni’s work and leadership contribute greatly to the Michigan fruit industry, AND they are helping to set the stage for a sustainable future for these important crops across the nation.

Listen to the broadcast here:

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