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WSU Plant Pathology Professor to Lead Center for Clean Plants


Date: 01/31/12

Ken Eastwell, a professor in the Washington State University Department of Plant Pathology based at WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser, has been appointed director of the Clean Plant Center of the Northwest. As director of CPCNW, Eastwell provides leadership for the development and distribution of deciduous fruit trees, grapevines and hops that are free of viruses and virus-like agents. The Center’s web site is at http://healthyplants.wsu.edu/.

“Viruses are particularly devastating to specialty crops such as tree fruits, grapes and hops,” said Eastwell. “Because these crops are perennial, annual losses to production caused by viruses occur every year and can ruin the economic outlook of a farming operation.”

“Ken Eastwell is a seasoned professional with areas of specialty that exactly match the focus of the Clean Plant Network. He has already built a strong foundation for the future expansion and refinement of the Center,” said Ralph Cavalieri in announcing the appointment. Cavalieri is associate dean for research and director of the Agricultural Research Center.

“Ken is a world-renowned expert on graft and vector-transmitted viruses and virus-like agents. He is the architect of the Clean Plant Center and is a driving force behind making it a reality,” said Hanu Pappu, chair of the Department of Plant Pathology and Samuel Smith Distinguished Professor of Plant Virology. “His advice and expertise are sought by researchers and industry professionals in all corners of the globe. His research has greatly contributed to the sustainability of a diverse range of crops including grapes, hops and tree fruits.”

“The National Clean Plant Network has provided a critical focal point for researchers, regulatory agencies and industry to share ideas and advance the production of virus-tested foundation planting stock to meet the nation’s needs,” Eastwell said.

The National Clean Plant Network is an industry-driven program designed to provide virus-tested propagation material to improve productivity and help growers and nurseries be more competitive in global markets. Domestic and international sales are negatively impacted by increased production costs and lower quality of fruits, nuts, hops and grapes, and their products. Programs to provide disease-free foundation plant material were established in the 1950s and 1960 to provide relief to the economic burden faced by growers at the time by diseases caused by virus-like agents. Faced with uncertain and diminishing funding to operate these specialized programs, producers of perennial specialty crops united to help create the National Clean Plant Network in 2009 with initial funding through the 2008 Farm Bill. The National Clean Plant Network now supports 15 centers across the U.S. representing five perennial specialty crops.

Eastwell’s research and outreach programs focus on reducing the economic impact of virus diseases of vegetatively propagated perennial crops, including fruit trees, grapevines, hops and flower crops. Preventing the spread of diseases is done by identifying pathogenic agents associated with graft-transmissible diseases, and developing disease diagnoses and advancing disease-management strategies.

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