WSU tree fruit specialist is here to help

Tianna DuPont loves going out to orchards and talking with growers, helping them solve problems and increasing their production.

Tianna DuPont
Tianna DuPont

“It’s really critical to remember that we need to know what the industry needs,” said DuPont, a Washington State University Extension tree fruit specialist. “We need to help our growers be more productive, profitable, and sustainable.”

DuPont, who works out of the WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee, started her job in November, 2015 after eight years working for Penn State University Extension.

“It’s good to be back in the Pacific Northwest,” said DuPont, who grew up near Issaquah and graduated from Whitman College. “I’m impressed by how much people want to cooperate with Extension. That’s a credit to all the people working in Extension here that have created such strong relationships with the industry.”

DuPont spent a significant portion of her first few months talking with people in the Washington tree fruit industry to learn about their greatest needs and concerns.

“Every farm visit or phone call with a grower or field man helps me understand what their problems are, and what their newest innovations are,” she said.

DuPont is involved with several projects already, including how to sustainably manage pest outbreaks, like fire blight and pear psylla. She’s also working on a soil quality survey, which she hopes will help increase the capacity of orchards and improve their irrigation efficiency.

“It all comes down to taking research being done at WSU and getting that into the hands of growers,” DuPont said. “But also, we need to talk to growers to find out where to focus our research.”

One new area that DuPont is working on is organic orchard management.

“In Washington, we grow almost 90 percent of all organic apples in the nation,” DuPont said. “It’s a small percentage of the total production, but we’re predicting it will double in the next few years.”

She is developing an organic pest management school with her colleague, David Granatstein, that will be offered in the near future.

Jim McFerson, the director of the Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center, said he’s impressed by how quickly DuPont has gotten up to speed in working with the industry.

“She is passionate about understanding and addressing stakeholder needs,” McFerson said. “And she has the training, insight and energy to make a real difference.”

DuPont took over her position when Tim Smith, a tree fruit industry legend, retired after 32 years with WSU.