April 3/San Luis Obispo, Calif./PRNewswire -- Plant pathologists Gerald Holmes and Kelly Ivors have been named to head research and development efforts at the new Strawberry Sustainability Research and Education Center at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

The Strawberry Sustainability Research and Education Center, a one-of-a-kind partnership between Cal Poly's College of Food, Agriculture & Environmental Sciences (CAFES) and the California Strawberry Commission, is rooted in the hands-on learning model that defines the university. The center will focus on applied research that incorporates both teaching and learning experiences for Cal Poly students, faculty and California strawberry farmers.

"The strawberry industry is critical to the state of California, and the new Strawberry Sustainability Research and Education Center will play a leading role in ensuring its strength now and into the future," said Andy Thulin, interim dean of the College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Design. "Dr. Holmes brings the perfect mix of academic and private industry experience to this job."

Rick Tomlinson, president of the California Strawberry Commission said, "We are thrilled to be part of this unique collaboration to address challenges facing California's strawberry farmers. We are committed to a robust program focused on innovation and applied research to help keep strawberry farming viable in California."

Applied research and innovation across multiple disciplines, coupled with access to real-world issues will enable Cal Poly and the California Strawberry Commission to achieve their shared vision of establishing a world-class center focused on the sustainability of California strawberry farming.

"This Cal Poly project is a landmark for California farming," said state senator Bill Monning. "I hope that the Strawberry Sustainability Center will serve as a model for how agriculture, academia and government can work together for mutual benefit. I applaud the state's strawberry farmers for aggressively pursuing innovative practices and new technologies intended to promote sustainability and reduce any adverse impacts on the environment."

In his new role, Holmes will provide overall strategic leadership to the center, working collaboratively with both farmers and academia. He has deep industry and academic experience in plant pathology and most recently worked at Valent U.S.A. Corp. developing fungicides. Prior to that, he spent 11 years at North Carolina State University's Plant Pathology Department and three years as a faculty member of the University of California Cooperative Extension.

Holmes is active in many professional organizations and has been recognized by numerous industry and academic groups for his excellence in extension, research and outreach. His research and extension work have resulted in more than 200 peer-reviewed journal articles, published abstracts and book chapters.

He earned his undergraduate degree in agronomy from Cal Poly, Pomona, and his doctorate in plant pathology from UC Riverside.

Ivors will focus her research for the Strawberry Sustainability Research and Education Center primarily on soil-borne plant pathogens in commercial strawberry production. She came to Cal Poly from North Carolina State University (NCSU), where she was an associate professor and extension plant pathologist stationed at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research & Extension Center near Asheville, N.C. While at NCSU, she worked extensively with growers of vegetable, nursery and greenhouse crops conducting applied research on diagnostics and disease management. Prior to NCSU, Ivors worked as a research technician at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service in Corvallis, Ore., and was a post-doctoral research associate at the University of California, Berkeley. She also conducted collaborative research at Plant Research International in Wageningen, The Netherlands as part of a National Science Foundation-funded visiting scientist program.

Ivors earned her undergraduate degree in bioenvironmental science and her master's degree in plant pathology from Texas A&M University. She earned her doctorate degree in plant pathology from Pennsylvania State University.