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​2024 Excellence in Extension: Michelle Moyer​

Michelle M. Moyer received her Ph.D. degree in 2011 from Cornell University. In her doctoral studies, she shuttled between New York and Australia, completing six growing seasons in just over 3 years. To this day, she continues this collaborative and global approach as viticulture Extension specialist and professor at Washington State University's Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser. 

Moyer is nominated specifically for her excellence as an Extension leader in grapevine pathology and viticulture. She leads an innovative program of national and international importance that addresses stakeholder needs from vine to wine, integrating pest and disease management and plant physiology to address the unique challenges of the high-desert environment of Washington and Oregon. Far beyond the confines of her region, she is recognized for her ability to connect and communicate with a broad spectrum of growers, pinpointing the most effective tools to enhance information uptake and implementation. Moyer has channeled research from multiple sources into a unified management program to address critical production limitations. Her interactive stakeholder workshops are, by request if not demand, held across the United States and are demonstrably effective in driving implementation and adoption of new knowledge and technologies. This is a model of effective Extension and measurable learning outcomes. 

Moyer has changed how grape growers across the United States approach fungicide stewardship. To achieve this, she assembled a multidisciplinary team of pathologists, horticulturalists, economists, computer scientists, engineers, meteorologists, and physicists. The team was awarded a $4.7 million USDA-SCRI grant and other funding (more than $750,000) to develop regional networks of growers, consultants, and agrochemical professionals aimed at monitoring and mitigating fungicide resistance. This project uses the latest discoveries in bioinformatics, diagnostics, and fluid mechanics to provide on-farm decision aides that address the risk of fungicide resistance in grape powdery mildew, while identifying barriers to cooperative behavior among growers. 

Moyer developed, refined, and delivered an innovative workshop series that combines traditional information delivery with hands-on learning across the United States. The workshops build stakeholder competence and confidence in developing disease management programs. These programs realistically accommodate the complexities of disease and fungicide resistance management, while also integrating broader goals for grape quality. Participants are surveyed about their management practices, then assembled into diverse working groups that are presented with a “challenge" that requires group cooperation and learning. The challenge is a production scenario based on their local growing conditions requiring disease management that incorporates realistic production constraints. Those constraints might include certification programs, regulatory issues, targeted markets for value-added products, and labor and equipment limits, as well as fungicide resistance. Each group designs a consensus management program, which is then presented, discussed, and defended to all workshop participants. While there is a common framework for each workshop, extensive modifications to successive workshops ensure continuous learning of repeat participants. Consequently, many participants enthusiastically retake the workshop annually. Furthermore, Moyer has replicated these workshops throughout the United States, in both in-person and virtual formats, to meet demand generated from enthusiasm within the stakeholder community. 

Moyer effectively educates stakeholders across a broad front. She developed three certification courses: 1) Grape Disease Management; 2) Growing Grapes; and 3) Viticulture for the Enologist. All transcend the specific needs of the high-desert region of Washington and Oregon, and indeed, demand for this advanced training is such that the courses are taught annually across the United States. Her annual Intern Boot Camp has provided a steady supply of badly needed skilled personnel to an expanding industry that is starved for such talent. Despite the fact that her faculty appointment encompasses no formal teaching requirement, Moyer regularly lectures or co-instructs several courses in plant pathology and horticulture at WSU, all while excelling within her 70/30 Extension/research appointment. She has published 33 refereed papers, 26 Extension publications (many updated annually), 29 workshops, 13 webpages, and a quarterly technical newsletter that is read by 68% of the Washington and eastern Oregon grape industry and has edited 2 editions of the Pacific Northwest IPM Guide for Grapes. She has given more than 177 regional, 50 national, and 9 international oral presentations on subjects encompassing disease management, pathogen biology and ecology, fungicide resistance, sprayer calibration, freeze damage, and pruning and water management in the context of IPM programs. 

Moyer is a recognized authority on the epidemiology and management of grapevine powdery mildew—the most important and destructive disease of grapevines worldwide. She discovered the phenomenon of “cold shock" in the pathosystem (Phytopathology, 100:1240-1249); a heretofore unknown global restraint of epidemics. Her work combined pathogen biology, ontogenic resistance, and climate-driven models to clarify the “boom and bust" cycles of global epidemics (doi:10.5344/ajev.2014.13111) and thereby improved disease management across the United States (doi:10.1094/PHP-2010-0526-02-SY, Aspects of her work are now embedded in advanced advisory systems both nationally and internationally. This is a mark not only of the high regard for the work, but an outcome of Moyer's active role in its translation to practice. Her propensity to organize and lead diverse stakeholder groups is demonstrated by her role as coconvenor of the International Epidemiology Workshop (Geneva, 2009) and two International Grapevine Powdery and Downy Mildew Workshops (Corvallis, 2017 and Cremona, 2022). Her excellence in Extension was recognized in 2020 by the American Society of Enology and Viticulture-Extension Distinction Award. The respect accorded her by her peers is evidenced by her election as president of the American Society of Enology and Viticulture in 2023. 

Moyer has served APS as a senior editor for Plant Disease, having refereed or reviewed 131 manuscripts. She has been generously supported by national and federal foundations, granting agencies, and the industry she serves, and with good reason. She brings an abundance of deep knowledge, creativity, and passion to her work. She is the model of a talented communicator and researcher who has improved the lives of stakeholders across her region, nationally, and internationally. In total, Moyer exemplifies and embodies those qualities sought for recipients of the APS Excellence in Extension Award.