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South Centers

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Another Fruitful Year for the Small Fruits Team

By Dr. Gary Gao
Professor and Extension Specialist

The year 2019, the 25th at The Ohio State University for Dr. Gary Gao, has been a fruitful one for the newly-minted professor and his small fruits program at South Centers in Piketon in the areas of Extension, research, international collaboration, and professional service.

“Our Extension programs and presentations reached more than 900 people though direct contacts and thousands more through newspaper articles, online videos, and Facebook updates,” said Gao.

“Our research efforts led to several promising blueberry rootstocks for Ohio and beyond. We identified at least 10 highly promising cultivars for Ohio growers to expand their acreage and diversify their farming operations through our cultivar trails. Both of their Extension and research efforts help create and/or retain jobs, mitigate risks, and improve profitability of a fruit industry that faces many challenges in Ohio. “
Dr. Gao’s international collaboration has brought four visiting scholars, one from Brazil and three from China.  

Gao has served as a University senator at The Ohio State University and a national Vice Chair for the National Association of County Agricultural Agents.

More information of these highlights from the past year and outlined below.

Gao and his fruit Extension and research team members conducted three major outreach programs: the Blueberry, Bramble, and Wine Grape Pruning School on March 14; Fall Fruit Field Night on October 10; and the Grape and Wine Analysis Workshop on December 5, 2019 at OSU South Centers in Piketon. 

Dr. Gao served as a planning committee member for the Ohio Grape and Wine Conference and the OPGMA Produce Network (Congress) that were heled in Dublin.  Dr. Gao also gave presentations at a few programs across the state including the Columbus Dispatch Home and Garden Show (February 9), Fruit and Vegetable Program for GreenStar Coop (February 28), Fruit Pruning and Training (March 9), Small Farm College (March 30), Southwest Ohio Perennial Flower School (April 11), Extension Sustainable Ag. Tour (June 26), and the Butler County MG Fruit Training (October 30). 

Ryan Slaughter, a member of the fruit extension and research team, gave a presentation on container fruit production at the 2019 Farm Science Review. Dr. Gao also wrote two trade magazine articles for the American Fruit Grower magazine and contributed more than 10 YouTube videos with the help of Duane Rigsby and Sarah Swanson at South Centers. 

Several funded projects were carried out in southern Ohio (Piketon), central Ohio (Columbus), and northern Ohio (Avon Lake and Mansfield) over the course of the past year.  Gao submitted the final report for his grafted blueberry rootstock project, four quarterly reports and an annual report for the viticulture Extension project, an annual report for the bramble and hardy fig and kiwi project, and an annual report for the intelligent sprayer project.  

Through their research efforts, they were able to identify some promising rootstock selections and cultivars, cold hardy fig and hardy kiwi cultivars, and several new bramble cultivars.  Gao has several manuscripts in preparation as the senior author and had one paper published in the February issue of Scientific Reports ( as a co-author.

International Collaboration
Dr. Gao welcomed Dr. Jiuxing Lu, a faculty member of the Forest College of Henan Agricultural University, to South Centers in May 2019.  Dr. Lu has been actively involved in all small fruit research projects and several

Extension programs.  
Three of Gao’s visiting scholars, Yanliang Chu (Jiangsu University of Science and Technology in China), Ricardo Bordignon Medina (ESALQ/USP in Brazil), and Dr. Pengfei Wang (Shanxi Agricultural University in China) have completed a highly successful one-year training at The Ohio State University and returned their respective home countries in 2019.  

Gao also gave several Extension presentations, guest lectures, and research updates as a part of his international collaboration with faculty members of Henan Agricultural University and Shanxi Agricultural University in China.

Professional Service
Dr. Gao started his three year term as a university senator and served on the Evaluation of Central Administration Committee as a member of Faculty Council for The Ohio State University.  He also served on the SEEDs panel for the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.  

As a graduate faculty with PhD advising status, Gao served as a graduate faculty representative for a PhD final exam on April 29, and attended a committee meeting on December 5 as a member of Piao Yang’s PhD committee. 

Dr. Gao also delivered gave a guest lecture for a HCS class on November 20 in Columbus. 

Lastly, Gao served as the National Vice Chair of the Professional Excellence for the North Central Region for the National Association of County Agricultural Agents. He also reviewed manuscripts for the Journal of Extension, Agronomy Journal (MDPI), and Atmosphere (MDPI).