Stefano Musacchi is a leader in tree fruit physiology at Washington State University.
source: Capital Press, by By Dan Wheat, video: GoodFruit Grower
WENATCHEE, Wash. — He arrived in Wenatchee a year ago, heralded by those who hired him at Washington State University as one of the best thinkers in tree fruit physiology and production in the world.
And Stefano Musacchi hasn’t disappointed as endowed chair of tree fruit physiology and management at the WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee, says Jay Brunner, center director. “Dr. Musacchi has lived up to expectations. He has shown that he is the right person for the position in many ways and his leadership will pay many dividends for horticultural science and the Washington tree fruit industry for years to come,” Brunner said.
He praised Musacchi’s knowledge, ideas, attention to detail and skill in collaborating with colleagues at the center and in the industry. Musacchi, 49, grew up on an orchard in Ferrara, Italy, managed by his father who also managed a tree fruit nursery and bred strawberries. Young Musacchi joined in all the work and enjoyed helping with the breeding. “If you asked me what I wanted to do in life, when I was a kid, I said, ‘I am doing it now,’” Musacchi said with a smile.
His college years were at the University of Bologna, where he received his master’s degree in agricultural sciences in 1990 and his doctorate in pomology in 1996. He became an assistant professor there in 2000. His research centered on pomology and physiology of fruit trees and pear breeding. He studied propagation, training systems, rootstocks and cultivars.
He became best known internationally for his innovations of developing the biaxial fruit tree structure for apples and pears and inventing the super slender axe for cherries.
The biaxis for apples and pears involves the removal of the central leader of the tree and development of leaders from two side limbs. It spreads the tree into a single growth plane on trellises to form fruiting walls. This allows maximum light penetration through the leaves of the tree canopy for better fruit growth and color and high, uniform fruit production. Musacchi says it’s easiest for mechanical pruning and thinning and easiest to harvest because fruit is readily seen.
The tree’s energy is divided and vigor is controlled, particularly in fertile soil.