New leadership roles for WSU grape virologist

PROSSER, Wash. – Naidu Rayapati, world-renowned plant pathologist, has been named director of the Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center (IAREC) in Prosser and CAHNRS assistant dean for Tri-Cities.

Naidu Rayapati stands in front of grape vines in a vineyard.
Naidu Rayapati gives a talk to growers in a vineyard near Prosser.

Rayapati studies virus diseases in a variety of crops, with emphasis on wine grapes. He’s worked in vineyards and farmers’ fields to help fight off, or prevent, pathogens that could have massive impacts on crops in Washington and around the world.

“I’m very excited about taking on these dual roles, including the new assistant dean position for the Tri-Cities campus,” Rayapati said. “We need to harness scientific and technological innovations, optimize strategic advantages, and maximize opportunities at the IAREC and Tri-Cities campuses.”

The new assistant dean position will strengthen cross-campus collaborations and university-stakeholder partnerships, enhancing the visibility and impacts of extension and academic programs from CAHNRS across Washington state and globally, Rayapati said.

Rayapati also aims to build partnerships with other institutions for advancing the overall land-grant mission of WSU and to actively contribute to WSU’s ‘Drive to 25’ initiative.

Both the IAREC and the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center at Tri-Cities are large components of the WSU Viticulture & Enology Program. While serving in his new roles, Rayapati will continue to conduct research in his grape virology program, with support from CAHNRS and his team of research associates, graduate students, and technical staff taking on a larger role in successfully running his program.

Rayapati takes over as director of the IAREC from Gary Grove, who will remain director of WSU’s AgWeatherNet.

“We are very appreciative of Dr. Grove’s positive and impactful leadership and management of the IAREC Center along with his successful engagement with our stakeholders and industry,” said Ron Mittelhammer, dean of CAHNRS.

“Dr. Rayapati’s research work in grape virology is incredibly important and valuable to the Washington wine industry, which is why CAHNRS is committed to continuing to provide substantial support for it,” Mittelhammer said. “Now, all of the CAHNRS scientists at the IAREC and the Tri-Cities campus will benefit from his leadership skills.”

Rayapati started his new position effective May 15.