June 1st was the starting date for new Peninsular Agricultural Center Superintendent Rebecca Wiepz, but it also could have been a homecoming celebration. A UW-Madison graduate, Wiepz was a research gardener at the Sturgeon Bay facility before moving on to earn her Master’s degree in Plant Science at Penn State and serve as an extension support specialist for viticulture at Cornell AgriTech. Wiepz will oversee its orchard fruit program as well as the station’s other endeavors as the home of the U.S. Potato GeneBank and The Garden Door. In a release from the UW-Madison Horticulture Department, she says she is looking forward to collaborating with researchers and growers alike to help improve the Wisconsin tree fruit industry.
Photo submitted by UW-Madison
Rebecca Wiepz has been named superintendent of Peninsular Agricultural Research Station (PARS), the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s 120-acre research farm located near Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, on the Door Peninsula.
Wiepz, who starts as superintendent on June 1, has specialized experience in fruit crop research and familiarity with PARS where she was once a research gardener. She returns to the station to oversee a robust orchard fruit program that serves the state’s fruit crop industry and UW–Madison researchers. Her work will also consider the distinct soil structure at PARS to address the unique nutrient management challenges on the Door Peninsula.
“I’m really excited to be back in Door County,” says Wiepz. “And I’m looking forward to collaborating with university researchers and local growers to help advance and improve the Wisconsin tree fruit industry.”
Wiepz earned a BS in Horticulture at UW–Madison in 2015, and a MS in Plant Science at Penn State in 2019. Most recently, she served as an extension support specialist for viticulture at Cornell AgriTech. At Penn State, her master’s thesis investigated “artificial spur extinction” for apples — a non-chemical crop management technique to reduce the total number of fruit on a tree in order to increase fruit size and quality, and minimize biennial fluctuation in yields.
“I’m excited to welcome Becky home to Wisconsin to serve as the next superintendent of the Peninsular Agricultural Research Station. Her horticultural training, coupled with her research and extension experience, make her a perfect leader for PARS as the station prepares for its second century of research leadership,” says Michael Peters, director of the UW–Madison’s Agricultural Research Station network. “I know she’ll look soundly to the future while remembering our history when we celebrate the centennial anniversary of the station in 2022.”
Established in 1922, Peninsular Agricultural Research Station is located just north of Sturgeon Bay and part of the UW–Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences’ (CALS) 11-farm Agricultural Research Station network. PARS is a field laboratory for fruit specialists, where they develop pest control programs and conduct other research to support Wisconsin’s fruit industries by improving yields and quality of apples, cherries, grapes and raspberries. The station is currently involved in a multi-site wine grape variety trial study to identify grape varieties that are well suited to wine production in the state’s various agricultural regions. Small grains and vegetable research, including peas, soybeans and potatoes, is also conducted at the facility.
The station is also home to the U.S. Potato Genebank, a collaborative effort with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service to safeguard the genetic diversity of agriculturally important plants. It maintains the world’s largest collection of wild and cultivated potato species — more than 4,500 samples of more than 150 potato species — in an effort to support breeding research that improves potatoes in Wisconsin and around the world.
A display garden at PARS, The Garden Door, is managed in cooperation with the Door County Master Gardeners Association and the UW–Madison Division of Extension.
Wiepz is the station’s fifth superintendent, replacing Matt Stasiak, who retired in 2019.
For more information about PARS, visit: https://peninsular.ars.wisc.edu
For more information about UW–Madison’s Agricultural Research Stations, visit: https://ars.wisc.edu