New wine and grape educator hired in northwest Michigan

Based in Leelanau County, Thomas Todaro will bring a variety of viticulture research experience to Michigan State University Extension.

Michigan State University Extension is pleased to announce Thomas Todaro recently accepted an Extension educator position to serve the wine and grape industry in northwest Michigan. Todaro is eager to start his new role in August, saying, “I am grateful for this opportunity to identify the priorities and address the needs of Michigan’s wine grape industry through research and extension.” He will be based out of the Leelanau Government Center in Leelanau County.

A native of Ohio, Todaro’s passion for viticulture began at the Ohio State University in 2012 when he took on a research aide position in their viticulture program. Todaro held this position for two years and his dedication to viticulture research and extension led him to pursue a master’s degree in OSU’s Department of Horticulture and Crop Science, which he completed in 2016. Todaro is currently employed by OSU and continues to conduct viticulture research at this time.

Todaro’s research focus has spanned cultural practices to improve fruit and wine quality, increased freezing tolerance of bud and cane tissues, and improved efficiency in vine recovery following winter damage. Like Michigan, Ohio vineyards also sustained severe winter damage following the 2014 and 2015 winters. Todaro and his advisor, Imed Dami, addressed this region's industry needs for research-based information on vine recovery following severe winter injury through Todaro’s master’s thesis project, which investigated various training and pruning methods on multiple cultivars to determine optimum vine recovery practices.

He is currently in the process of publishing this research and has presented his work at the American Society for Enology and Viticulture – Eastern Section (ASEV-ES) annual conference. His academic accomplishments were recognized by the ASEV and ASEV-ES through two scholarships these groups awarded him.

At OSU, Todaro participated in extension activities including assisting in planning and organizing viticulture workshops, field days and presenting projects to growers through newsletters, posters, educational videos and conference presentations. Due to the nature of his research, Todaro discovered that sharing his works’ results was most effective through images and educational videos. He has produced three videos and more are forthcoming on YouTube.

We look forward to Todaro joining MSU Extension in August 2017.

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