Nov 14, 2019
Penn State Fruit Research and Extension Center to stay under Harper’s leadership

Jayson Harper, who had been interim director of the Fruit Research and Extension Center in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences since March 1, has been named to the post on a standing basis.

As director, he oversees all personnel and financial activities while providing and communicating strategic vision for the center.

Located in Biglerville, Adams County, in the heart of Pennsylvania’s fruit belt, the Fruit Research and Extension Center — often referred to as FREC — is an importantresource 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 noted.

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 stinkbug, 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.

“Disease management and the emerging issue of rapid apple decline also are issues on which growers rely on us for help. We have a great group of people at FREC, and I look forward to helping them serve our dynamic fruit industry.”

Harper, also a professor of agricultural economics, joined the 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.

The Fruit Research and Extension Center is a vital part of Penn State’s partnership with the state’s fruit industry, according to Gary Thompson, College of Agricultural Sciences associate dean for research and graduate education and director of the Pennsylvania Agricultural Experiment Station.

The complexity of the challenges facing the fruit industry is likely to grow as a result of climate change, the movement of insects and diseases — including exotic invasive species such as spotted lanternfly — and the lack of available workforce,” Thompson said. “We’re very pleased that Jay Harper, with his knowledge of the industry and his relevant scholarly expertise, will continue to provide visionary leadership that can help ensure the success of growers and an abundance of nutritious fruit for consumers.”


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