Improving tree fruit industry produce, profits focus of WSU endowed chair
By Seth Truscott, College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences
Carolina Torres, a horticulturist and WSU alumna, has been named the university’s first Endowed Chair in Tree Fruit Postharvest Systems.
Torres will help Northwest tree fruit growers and packers bring their best produce to consumers more profitably and sustainably. Her position, based at the WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee, will begin Feb. 1.
Torres was selected to lead an internationally renowned research program focused on Washington apples, cherries, pears and stone fruit. Her role is supported by a $2 million endowment from the state’s tree fruit growers.
Helping Washington’s $8 billion tree fruit industry solve challenges from bloom to table, Torres will lead research on stresses that harm fruit quality, as well as handling technologies, fruit physiology and traits, sensory attributes, and postharvest cultural practices.
Sharing her research with partners in industry, the endowed chair will help growers, packers and shippers find and use new technology to improve their practices, prevent disease, and improve and protect their crops.
Holding a 2005 doctorate from WSU in Horticulture, Torres is currently a professor, researcher, and director of International Relations at the University of Talca, Chile.
At Talca, she leads postharvest research focused on fruits in the apple and pear family, and studies fruit quality, physiology and biochemistry at the university’s Agriculture Science Faculty. Her research focuses on how the environment affects fruit quality, both before and after harvest, including sun damage, scalding and internal breakdown in apples and pears.
“Washington tree fruit is a world leading industry, and it’s an honor for me to work alongside innovative growers who’ve served as an example to other fruit producers, like those here in Chile,” Torres said.
Torres sees herself as supporting farmers and consumers with new knowledge and technology, seeking ideas to solve technical problems, and as a detective searching for clues to solve post‑harvest diseases.
“Reducing fruit loss is not only important for environmentally and socially responsible consumers, it’s critical to the value of the fruit industry,” Torres said. “By reducing post‑harvest disease, I’m helping increasing the amount and price of sellable tree fruit crops, which is vital for growers and their business.”
“We are excited to welcome Dr. Torres back to Washington state, and look forward to the discoveries and partnerships that this newest endowed chair will bring to our programs and to the Washington tree fruit industry,” said Rich Koenig, interim chair of the Department of Horticulture in the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. “None of this would be possible without the financial support and involvement of our partners in the tree fruit industry, whose investment is vital to WSU research and Extension.”
Learn more about tree fruit research and Washington State University Extension programs at the WSU Tree Fruit website.