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Excellence award highlights work of WSU-OSU Little Cherry team

Posted by Seth Truscott | May 12, 2021
Tree branches bearing large numbers of small, red as well as pale cherries.
Cherry trees infected with Little Cherry Disease bear small, bitter or bland fruits that often lack attractive coloring.

Helping Northwest cherry growers stop the spread of a damaging disease, a team of scientists and Extension specialists from Washington State University and Oregon State University have earned recognition from the Western Extension Directors Association (WEDA).

The joint WSU-OSU Little Cherry Disease Extension Team will be recognized this summer with WEDA’s 2021 Award of Excellence.

Named for its unpalatable symptoms—small, insipid, colorless fruit—Little Cherry Disease encompasses several pathogens that infect sweet cherries and other stone fruit trees. Once infected, there is no remedy other than speedy removal of sick trees to slow transmission.

The complex of diseases ravaged Washington cherry orchards in the 1940s and ’50s. Reports of Little Cherry began rising in 2017, and today it is again a significant concern for Northwest orchards.

Scientists and specialists from both universities have been working over the last several years to inform cherry growers how to identify, manage, and halt the spread of the pathogens.

“My colleagues on the WSU-OSU Little Cherry Disease Extension Team responded when orchardists faced an unprecedented challenge,” said team member and WSU Regional Extension Specialist Tianna DuPont. “They deserve this award for working so hard to provide solutions and research-based information, bridging a huge gap in knowledge about how to manage X-disease and Little Cherry disease. It has been such a pleasure to work with this group, and I know the industry really appreciates their efforts.”

The team will be honored and share a brief overview of their work at the association’s awards presentation, Monday, June 28, held via Zoom.

A professional association for leadership of land-grant institutions in the western U.S. and Pacific islands and territories, WEDA supports extension programs, collaboration, and mentorship, and helps create a voice for western issues and challenges. Learn more about WEDA on the organization’s home page.

Along with DuPont, team members include WSU Regional Extension Specialists Bernardita Sallato, Karen Lewis, and Gwen Hoheisel; Information Technology Transfer specialists Jenny Bolivar and Cody Molnar; Tobin Northfield, WSU Assistant Professor of Entomology; Scott Harper, WSU Assistant Professor of Plant Pathology and Clean Plant Center Director; Louis Nottingham, WSU Research Assistant Professor, Entomology; Ricardo Naranjo, WSU Extension Assistant; and Ashley Thompson, Oregon State University Tree Fruit Extension, Wasco and Hood River Counties.

Learn more about WSU’s work on Little Cherry Disease here, and learn about its related efforts to solve X-Disease here.