For almost as long as hard-working orchardists have been growing tree fruit in Washington, researchers and extension educators from Washington State University have been there to support them with new science, innovation, and best practices.

It is a century-long partnership that has helped to position our state as a world leader in tree fruit production. The Washington apple is an icon of quality around the globe. At the core of that partnership is mutual trust, respect, and investment of resources.

The most recent investment came earlier this month when cherry and stone fruit growers voted to assess themselves an additional $5 million over the next eight years to support WSU programs. Cherry growers will pay $4 per ton; stone fruit growers $1 per ton. It is a significant commitment that will make a difference. With the $27 million assessment that apple and pear growers in the state approved in 2011, we are talking about a truly transformational $32 million investment in WSU’s research and extension activities.

Those funds already are working for the industry. WSU has hired two of the finest tree fruit scientists in the world – Desmond Layne and Stefano Musacchi – to bring their expertise to bear in Washington. And, that is just the beginning.

Jim Doornink, chair of the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, grows cherries, apricots, peaches, pears, and apples in the Yakima Valley. When the cherry and stone fruit assessment passed earlier this month, he said that it helps to build on the strategic road map outlined by the industry and WSU more than a decade ago. “That trajectory,” Jim said, “has continued according to plan with WSU’s strategic hires, the commission’s continued funding of priority projects, and now this industry-wide support to make our research and extension partnership with WSU unequivocally the best in the world.”

I couldn’t agree more. Thank you to the Washington tree fruit industry for their trust, partnership, and investment!