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NWREC Newsletter Summer 2020

CAHNRS Dean Andre-Denis Wright

Dean’s Message

Dr. Carol Miles selected to lead at NWREC

Dr. Carol MilesPlease join me in congratulating Dr. Carol Miles for agreeing to serve as the Interim Director at the Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center (NWREC) in Mount Vernon for the next year. Dr. Miles, a Professor in Horticulture, will assume the role on July 1, 2020. Carol has 26 years as a faculty member at WSU and has done an excellent job of providing leadership to industry, faculty and students in her profession.

I would also like to thank Chad Kruger for his strong leadership of the NWREC over the past five years.

Welcome to the team Carol!

Chad Kruger transitioning to director at Wenatchee

Chad KrugerPlease join me in congratulating Chad Kruger for agreeing to serve as the Director at the Wenatchee Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center (WTFREC) for the next four years. Mr. Kruger, Director of CSANR, will assume the role on July 1, 2020. Chad has 16 years as a faculty member at WSU and is coming full circle, returning to Wenatchee where he was first hired on at WSU as an Associate in Research. Chad has done an excellent job providing leadership to both the Mount Vernon Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center and at the Puyallup Research and Extension Center.

I would also like to thank Kate Evans for stepping in as an Interim Director at WTFREC until we were able to get this position filled.

I look forward to continue working with you Chad in this new role.

André-Denis G. Wright, Ph.D.
Dean, College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences

Dr. Carol Miles

Director’s Message

It is with great pleasure that I take this opportunity to serve as the Interim Director at WSU Mount Vernon NWREC for the next year. While we were actively recruiting for a new permanent director this spring, unfortunately due to COVID-19 the search was frozen. I have spent the last 13 years of my 25-years at WSU working at NWREC, and continually feel how lucky I am to be here. The beauty of the Skagit Valley is matched by the surrounding region, and based on my experience is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Working at NWREC is both grounding and dynamic, as our research programs are foundational and leading edge. The faculty at NWREC are not only leaders in research and Extension in the state, but we also provide leadership for our areas of specialty worldwide. Throughout this challenging time, all the faculty at NWREC continue to be actively engaged in our research programs. I hope you will join with us to mark this transition from the past five years of leadership by Chad Kruger, under whose direction NWREC has thrived. The success of NWREC going forward rests in the sure and steady hands of all the faculty here, and as the Interim Director it is my mission to support our continued success. While NWREC remains closed to the public due to COVID-19, our faculty, staff and students remain on the job, and we look forward to sharing our research with you via on-line seminars and newsletter reports.

Carol Miles
Professor, Department of Horticulture
Interim Director, WSU Mount Vernon NWREC

Bearded man stands with arms crossed in front of plants.

Outgoing Director’s Message

Leadership transitions are a good time to reflect on accomplishments, identify new challenges and opportunities, and provide a bit of parting wisdom.

Here are a few accomplishments to reflect on from the past five years at NWREC:

  • We celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the new ARTB facility in fantastic fashion;
  • We said goodbyes to several dedicated, long-time faculty who retired—Lynell Tanigoshi, Debbie Inglis, Susan Kerr, and Tim Miller;
  • We have managed three cuts to the core budget totaling 25%, while maintaining [and even growing] our overall research operation and productivity;
  • We have celebrated new hires and programs in Entomology (Bev Gerdeman), Food Science (Bri Valliere), Soils (Deirdre Griffin-LaHue and Gabe LaHue), Weeds (Steve Seefeldt), and the Ag Weather Net (Jon Contezac), and will soon celebrate a new Plant Pathology hire;
  • We saw commitments to new faculty endowments for the Bread Lab, the Washington Red Raspberry Industry Development, and in Vegetable Seed;
  • We were provided a couple of new graduate student scholarships in vegetable seed;
  • We made a number of facility upgrades and transitions to accommodate significant program growth;
  • And we started construction on the first phase of a new facility expansion through full community-based funding support that should be completed in a couple of months.

While the director gets the “credit” for a lot of these things, the reality is that these accomplishments are a team effort between faculty, staff, students, and our community partners—and nothing good happens unless everyone is pulling together toward the same objective.

The continuing challenges for NWREC are likely to fall in the same general domain—managing personnel and program transitions, continuing to expand, renovate, and equip space for a state-of-the-science research campus, and building a more diversified and sustainable core financial portfolio. To continue to be successful, we will need new investments in support of facilities, faculty, and students to remain competitive in an ever-evolving landscape. I suspect that five years from now this story will still be the same. The only questions will be what specific opportunities or challenges will drive the need for investment or change.

The idea behind the Land Grant University is that it is an institution that is engaged with the community in the tri-part discovery, instruction, and outreach mission. NWREC is the ultimate example of an engaged part of the Land Grant University. The history of this Center is one defined by community engagement—it is in fact one of the most powerful community engagement stories at WSU—and I believe over the past five years we have strengthened the community engagement through intentional communication, strengthening existing and cultivating new partnerships, and mutual advocacy toward common objectives.

The days of a fully publicly funded Land Grant University or regional Research & Extension Center are long-since past. In fact, I believe we have entered a period in which public funding for core functions and operations is also a “thing of the past” and that we will need to develop new models for how the Land Grant University partners with communities to support the core operational capacity for critical community-based investments such as NWREC. We’ve scratched at the surface of this with our most recent faculty hires in soils and plant pathology—but I think we are going to need to go further in finding creative ways to maintain critical capacity investments for mutual benefit. Thus, my “parting wisdom” is that the faculty-student-community partnership needs even more attention and focus, and that this focus needs to be forward-looking. We generally do not reflect on our successes often enough, but it’s also easy to get trapped in the status quo of what you currently have or are. Success comes from understanding where you came from, learning from your successes and failures, but most importantly from keeping your eyes focused on where you want to be in the distant future.

I wish you all the best and look forward to future opportunities to “check in” and see the amazing successes you will continue to have together in partnership.

Chad Kruger
Outgoing Director, Mount Vernon NWREC

Thank You, Chad!

Thank you for your attentive leadership and dedication to ensuring NWREC thrived during your tenure as director. These last few months are an example of your unwavering commitment to WSU as you lead us through this unprecedented time. We appreciate all that you have done to keep NWREC’s faculty, staff and students safe and informed while also keeping our incredible Center at the forefront of research. We admire your leadership and decision-making skills—we look forward to seeing and working with you into the future. Wishing you and your family all the best as you transition to Wenatchee TFREC. We are forever grateful for the time, dedication and support you put into creating a stronger and more resilient NWREC.

NWREC Faculty, Staff and Graduate Students

Young woman speaks into microphone behind table vegetable starts.

Graduate Students at WSU Mount Vernon NWREC

As our state and the world have significantly shifted gears to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, WSU faculty at Mount Vernon NWREC, and at every WSU campus, have focused on maintaining a safe and productive work place for faculty, staff and students. At NWREC we have 16 graduate students in progress with their research programs, and we have six new graduate students starting in Fall 2020. Faculty have had to reduce overall research efforts to comply with the ‘Stay Home, Stay Healthy’ directive in Washington. In doing so, we have prioritized graduate student projects to ensure that students continue to move forward with their research projects and maintain their graduation timelines as best as possible. Here is a snapshot of our current NWREC graduate students.


Advisor: Dr. Beverly Gerdeman, Entomology Department

Alec Blume

Alec Blume
M.S. student (Summer 2020)
“Life history and development of Dalotia coriaria (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae), fed a diet of  Rhopalosiphum rufiabdominale (Hemiptera: Aphididae).

Small Fruit Horticulture

Advisor: Dr. Lisa Wasko DeVetter, Horticulture Department

Yixin Cai
M.S. student (Spring 2019)
“Technologies and practices that allow for the mechanical harvest of fresh market blueberry with high fruit quality and harvest efficiency.”

Qianwen Lu
Ph.D. student (Fall 2018)
“Improving nutrient management in red raspberry .”

Brenda Madrid

Brenda Madrid
M.S. student (Fall 2020)
“Application of biodegradable plastic mulches and alternative plasticulture practices for June-bearing strawberry in western Washington.”

May Wang

May Wang
M.S. student (Fall 2020)
Novel production systems for improved production and disease management in strawberry.”

Soil Health

Advisor: Dr. Deirdre Griffin LaHue, Crop and Soil Sciences Department

Molly McIlquham

Molly McIlquham
M.S. student (Fall 2020)
“Evaluating soil health indicators and improved soil management in wine grape systems.

Kwabena Sarpong
Ph.D. student (Spring 2020)
“Assessing soil health and the relevancy of soil health indicators across major specialty crops in Washington state.”

Toby Una
M.S. student (Fall 2019)
“Investigating the benefits and trade-offs of winter cover crops in western Washington’s potato and vegetable seed systems.”

Soils & Water

Advisor: Dr. Gabriel LaHue, Crop and Soil Sciences Department

Tessa Belo

Tessa Belo
M.S. student (July 2020; co-advisor Dr. Lindsey du Toit, Plant Pathology)
“Impacts of irrigation and fertilization practices on bacterial diseases in onion bulb crops.”

Cheyenne Sloan

Cheyenne Sloan
M.S. student (Fall 2019; co-advisor Dr. Lisa DeVetter, Small Fruit Horticulture)
“Quantifying nitrogen mineralization in soils with varying amounts of organic matter.”

Vegetable Horticulture

Advisor: Dr. Carol Miles, Horticulture Department

Alex Cornwall

Alex Cornwall
Ph.D. student (Fall 2020)
Identifying Lactuca sp. with genetic barcoding and taxonomy and gene exploration of wild relatives of Lactuca sativa.”

Pinki Devi
Ph.D. student (Spring 2017)
“Propagation methods to increase the grafting success of watermelon and rootstock resistance to Verticillium dahliae.”

Aiden Kendall

Aidan Kendall
M.S. student (Fall 2020; co-advisor Dr. Gabriel LaHue, Crop & Soil Sciences)
“Developing resource-efficient cider apple production systems.”

Srijana Shrestha
M.S. student (Spring 2020)
“Development of educational materials for biodegradable plastic mulch.”

Vegetable Seed Pathology

Advisor: Dr. Lindsey du Toit, Plant Pathology Department

Alex Batson
Ph.D. student (Fall 2019)
“The genetic basis of pathogenicity to spinach of Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. spinaciae.”

Stephanie Crane

Stephanie Crane
M.S. student (Spring 2020)
“Management of Pseudomonas syringae pv. aptata in table beet and Swiss chard”

Marilen Nampijja
Ph.D. student (2020)
Management of Pseudomonas syringae pv. aptata in table beet and Swiss chard seed production.”

Ryan Solemslie
M.S. student (Spring 2018)
“Cold season emergence, vigor, and seedling blight resistance screening in sweet corn.”

Kayla Spawton
Ph.D. student (Fall 2018)
“The ecology and management of Stemphylium leaf spot of spinach.”

The Bread Lab

Advisor: Dr. Stephen Jones, Crop and Soil Sciences

Merri Metcalfe
Ph.D. student (Fall 2018)
“Accessibility, quality, and affordability of grain-based products from Western Washington with an emphasis on making nutritional food more available within our communities.”

Robin Morgan
Ph.D. student (Fall 2018)
“Exploring the intersections between breeding and baking.”

Laura Valli
Ph.D. student (Spring 2019)
“The agronomic and social aspects of rye in western Washington.”

Young man gives crowd a close up view of exhibit.

2020 Field Day Cancelled due to Pandemic

The annual WSU Mount Vernon NWREC Field Day always draws a crowd—and this year that’s a bit of a problem. Due to the ongoing pandemic, and recommendations of the Governor, CDC, and public health officials, we were left with no choice but to cancel this event for 2020. Research continues at the Center (see featured graduate research above), so while we will miss seeing all of you, we will be posting project highlights to the NWREC website as the summer progresses.

Wireworm adult and immature on radish.

Brown Bag Seminars

July 13, 2020 11:00 am
Wireworm – Ultimate Foe! | Ben Diehl and Dr. Bev Gerdeman

Join us on Zoom to learn to identify wireworm larvae, what makes them the ultimate pest and strategies to minimize their impact on fruit and vegetable crops.

Connection details and information about future seminars is on the calendar.

Jacky King Retires

Smiling woman in glasses and a broad-brimmed hat.Jacky King is retiring after 40 years at WSU Mount Vernon NWREC. Jacky worked in the tree fruit horticulture program at NWREC in its early days with Dr. Bob Norton, and was part of the program’s growth to its peak of 25 acres of research orchards, vineyards, and berry plantings at NWREC with Gary Moulton. Over the past 12 years, Jacky has worked with Dr. Carol Miles to support the cider apple research program. Jacky is often referred to as our ‘encyclopedia of tree fruit’ and we will miss her presence at NWREC. Jacky’s last official work day at WSU is July 9. You can send Jacky your best wishes at

Sign: "Sorry, we miss you"

NWREC Campus Closed to the Public

As an essential part of the agriculture industry in Washington State, Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center faculty, staff and students remain on the job; we are continuing to carry out our office work at home and spending time in our field research plots on a reduced basis. While Skagit County works towards resuming commercial activity, we will continue to serve the state through research and Extension activities in keeping with guidance from Governor Inslee and University administration. NWREC will remain closed to the public due to COVID-19. We look forward to sharing our research updates with you via online seminars and newsletter reports.

COVID-19 Announcements and Updates

The WSU COVID-19 website serves as the University’s central source of updates and information about COVID-19. Questions, suggestions and recommendations from the WSU community can be sent to