National Extension award goes to WSU viticulture specialist Michelle Moyer

Closeup of Michelle Moyer
Michelle Moyer

Michelle Moyer describes her scientific career as working between two worlds. So winning a national award in one of those worlds came as a complete shock.

“There are folks who work on so many different crops, like corn and soybeans, and whose work impacts developing countries,” said Moyer, a Washington State University professor and viticulture Extension specialist. “This is meaningful because I have so much respect for everyone in this field.”

Moyer will receive the Excellence in Extension Award from the American Phytopathological Society (APS) during its annual conference at the end of July. The award recognizes excellence in Extension plant pathology, honoring those who have made outstanding contributions by creating, developing, or implementing Extension-related programs or materials or who have provided significant leadership in an area of Extension plant pathology, according to the APS.

Moyer is a plant pathologist by training, but her Extension career has allowed her to branch into horticulture, leading to a professional dichotomy. She is an affiliate faculty member in both the horticulture and plant pathology departments at WSU.

“To be a good plant pathologist, you need to know the entire cropping system,” Moyer said. “You need to understand how grapes are grown, what varieties are being grown, what trellis is used. Applied horticulture, basically. That allows me to better help the viticulture industry.”

That crossover is also necessary as an Extension professional, she added.

“I love using information to solve problems,” said Moyer, who has been with WSU since 2011. “I also love interacting with growers and helping them figure out solutions to their problems. I’m focused on the destination less than the journey.”

Interacting doesn’t mean just talking, something Moyer said likely led to her receiving this award.

I like to help people work through real-world problems and not just lecture them. You learn more by doing, and I try to incorporate that when working with growers.

Michelle Moyer, professor and viticulture Extension specialist
Washington State University

“I’m a huge proponent of hands-on learning,” said the Wisconsin native. “I like to help people work through real-world problems and not just lecture them. You learn more by doing, and I try to incorporate that when working with growers.”

Working in Extension requires her to have a wide breadth of knowledge to help people who grow wine grapes.

Currently, Moyer is focusing on crop resiliency and integrated pest management, looking at ways to reduce pesticide use. She is also studying different rootstocks and cover crops that could better control soilborne pests, and working on fungicide resistance monitoring, among other projects.

“There’s always something new to learn and look at,” Moyer said. “This award is humbling, but it means that there are high expectations that I hope I can meet.”

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