Mar 29, 2021
Holland joins University of Wisconsin fruit team

Leslie Holland is the new University of Wisconsin (UW) Extension fruit pathologist. She joined the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Plant Pathology and the UW Fruit Team in August 2020.

Leslie Holland
Leslie Holland

Holland holds a Ph.D. in plant pathology from the University of California, Davis, and has over six years of experience studying fungal canker pathogens of perennial fruit crops. She graduated with a master’s degree in plant pathology from Washington State University and earned her bachelor’s degree in biology at New Mexico State University.

Despite completing her college education in the West, Holland is an Ohio native and said she is excited to be back in the Midwest. “Although those 10 years out West seems to have thinned my blood, so I’m finding Wisconsin’s cold winter weather is taking some adjustment,” she said.

RELATED: Researchers ponder presence of cranberry false blossom

Holland said she has always been fascinated by plants and took a lot of horticulture classes when starting her undergraduate degree.

“Ironically enough I did an internship at UW-Madison in horticulture and I worked in cranberries. It’s a unique crop to work on,” Holland said.

During her internship, Holland was introduced to plant diseases by former UW-Extension fruit pathologist Patricia McManus. McManus retired from the post Holland now holds in 2019. McManus had served as the state fruit pathologist for nearly 25 years.

“Patty told me you could go to grad school to study plant diseases. It sounded insane to me at the time, but I was intrigued,” Holland said.

Because of COVID-19, Holland was not able to visit cranberry marshes as much as she would have liked this past year. But shortly after arriving in Wisconsin, Ocean Spray agriculture scientist Dave Jones took Holland on a tour of several cranberry marshes. She was also able to see cranberries being harvested in October.

“I even got to get into a cranberry bed that was flooded for harvest. I was in hip boots and doing great, but then I decided that I was tough and could just leap out of the bed onto the dike. I took a bit of a tumble and got water in my boots. Nothing like embarrassing yourself a few months into a new job,” Holland said, laughing.

In addition to cranberries, Holland also will study the biology and management of pathogens affecting apples, cherries, grapes and other specialty fruit crops grown in Wisconsin.

Connect with Holland at

— Lorry Erickson, FGN correspondent

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