HERMISTON — Oregon State University has appointed a new leader at the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center.
Clive Kaiser, horticulture professor and Umatilla County extension agent for OSU in Milton-Freewater, will take over as interim director at HAREC beginning Sept. 3. He takes over for longtime station director and plant pathologist Phil Hamm, who retired earlier this year.
Hamm spent 44 years with OSU, and 14 years overseeing research programs at HAREC. Farmers grow more than 150 different crops in the Umatilla Basin, including potatoes, wheat, corn and onions.
Kaiser, who arrived at OSU in 2006, said Hamm encouraged him to apply for the station director’s job.
“Obviously, I have big shoes to fill,” Kaiser said. “Phil Hamm did an amazing job running the station all these years.”
Kaiser’s work has largely focused on assisting tree fruit and wine grape growers in Milton-Freewater, part of the Walla Walla Basin in northeast Oregon. Through his research, he helped to develop a protective coating for cherries and blueberries to keep them from cracking — a product marketed in the U.S. under the brand name “Parka.”
Two more products are also patent-pending, including “HydroShield,” a spray that reduces water usage in plants and prevents insects from laying eggs in fruit, and “Decoy,” an attractant that lures harmful insects away from fruit while killing eggs and larvae.
Kaiser said he looks forward to spearheading more innovation at HAREC, and is especially eager to begin focusing on post-harvest diseases, pests and disorders in crops.
“There is a great team at the Hermiston research center, so it will be great to work with them,” he said.
A native of South Africa, Kaiser has three degrees from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermartizburg, including a doctorate in horticultural science. He has also worked in Australia, England and New Zealand before coming to Oregon.
Kaiser said he is interested in becoming the permanent director at HAREC and learned a lot from Hamm over the years, whom he described as a tireless supporter of local agriculture.
“Rather than filling his shoes, I’ll be standing on the shoulders of giants,” he said.
Kaiser will continue to serve in the interim until OSU conducts a full search of candidates.