Producing exceptional tasting, high-quality fruit

Todd Einhorn strives to cultivate trees that will consistently produce the right balance of flowers, fruit and leaves to produce “exceptional tasting, high-quality fruit.

January 1, 2019 - Author:

Todd Einhorn

Todd Einhorn, MSU associate professor and tree fruit specialist, melds two passions into one career – lifelong learning and working with plants, specifically fruit trees.

“I find plants beautiful – working with them directly is incredibly fulfilling,” Einhorn said. He also enjoys the opportunity “to perpetually learn and contribute knowledge and techniques to advance tree fruit systems and have daily interactions with an engaged community of peers, students and stakeholders.”

His fascination with the biology and physiology of trees, coupled with a desire to improve those plants to benefit people, led him to pursue his current field. As a researcher, he observes all aspects of fruit trees – flowers, fruit, leaves, branches and roots – then figures out how to help them become more efficient. Einhorn strives to cultivate trees that will consistently produce the right balance of flowers, fruit and leaves to produce “exceptional tasting, high-quality fruit.”

To achieve that, he studies the interaction between fruit trees and the climatic factors that regulate their development, a topic that interests many Michigan fruit producers because of weather events in the past decade that have nearly wiped out more than one season’s crop.

“I am particularly interested in how fruit trees and fruit respond to horticultural manipulation and their environment – heat, cold, ice, rain, wind, sun, clouds,” Einhorn said. “I use classical reductionist experimentation and mathematical models to predict when and how they respond to these factors. This helps fruit growers optimize yield and prepare for and avoid damage to their fruit.”

Q&A: Todd Einhorn

Title: Associate professor and tree fruit specialist, MSU Department of Horticulture

Joined MSU: 2016

Education: B.S. in horticultural science, Colorado State University (2001); Ph.D. in tree fruit physiology (pomology), Colorado State University (2006)

Hometown: Middlesex, New Jersey

A major research breakthrough I’d like to see in the next decade: Despite my vast interest in plant systems research, human health breakthroughs that directly lessen suffering.

If I weren’t a researcher, I’d be: A full-time human and animal rights advocate.

Words of advice to a young scientist: Fortunately, most scientists in training or early-career positions are passionate. My advice to science students is to seek and acquire a robust and broad foundation of skills and knowledge in the sciences, of which math literacy is central. In the biological sciences, the greater the exposure to physics, technology and engineering (electrical systems, computer programming, “big data” analytics and management, and so on) the greater the dividends. Tinkering, fixing and fabricating instruments and equipment on the fly is essential to solving problems – learning these skills is certainly not limited to early phases of the life spectrum, but the construct of time seems to become increasingly limiting.

Family: Wife, Kathryne, four sons, and our Labrador dog.

Influential or inspiring person: My grandfather, whose incredible work ethic and delightful disposition created a life in which the normally partitioned categories of work, hobbies, family, etc., were interchangeable.

Favorite way to spend time off: Traveling – surfing, skiing, skating, motion in general – preferably in nature and sustained by internal machinery. Sitting only to enjoy espresso, conversation, fine wine and food.

On a Saturday afternoon, you’ll likely find me: In the E.R. (four boys). Otherwise, skating with my boys, in orchards, at a microscope, reading or writing, or rolling on the floor wrestling with my Labrador.

This article was published in Futures, a magazine produced twice per year by Michigan State University AgBioResearch. To view past issues of Futures, visit www.futuresmagazine.msu.edu. For more information, email Holly Whetstone, editor, at whetst11@msu.edu or call 517-355-0123.

Tags: apples, cherries, food@msu research updates, horticulture, project greeen, tree fruit


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