“I am very pleased to introduce Mr. Esmaeil Nasrollahiazar as the new NW Michigan small fruit/ viticulture specialist here in the Grand Traverse region. He will fill the position that Thomas Todaro departed last summer and work both from an office in Suttons Bay and out at the Northwest MI Horticultural Research Center (NWMRC). As many of you know the MSU Extension positions at the SWMRC and NWMHRC are absolutely critical to the success by growers and winemakers in Michigan. Through their research, leadership over the research vineyards in each region, their communication with growers and role in education and communication of research results, Dr Katherine East (SWMRC) and Mr. Nasrollahiazar play an essential role in the success of our industry in the future. Below is an introductory message from MSU, which I could not improve upon, so I’ve included it for your information on Esmaeil’s background and duties. Thank you, Nikki! We growers welcome Esmaeil and are committed to collaborating with him and his MSU/Extension colleagues for success in his work and his new life in NW Michigan!” -Tom Petzold, Research & Education Committee Chair
Nasrollahiazar comes to the Extension with 15 years of combined experience in domestic and international agriculture. He began his journey in his home country, Iran, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Engineering, specializing in agronomy and plant breeding.
After completing his degree, Nasrollahiazar took on multiple positions at the Seed and Plant Certification and Registration Institute (SPCRI) in Karaj, Iran. His first position was a Distinctness, Uniformity and Stability (DUS) Examiner. DUS tests are used in plant breeding to determine whether a newly bred variety is different from an existing variety. In this role, he provided general management of research plots and conducted DUS testing for the vegetable breeding program.
Just four years after beginning with the company, Nasrollahiazar also became the head of the Image Analysis Lab where imaging techniques that he developed were integrated into the DUS testing process to identify new varieties. He worked both as DUS Examiner and Image Analysis Lab Head simultaneously.
While performing his duties at the SPCRI, he also completed a Master of Science in Agricultural Engineering specializing in agronomy at his alma mater the Islamic Azad University in Karaj. Incorporating his student responsibilities with his roles at the SPCRI, he studied image analysis techniques for determining the genetic purity of different wheat varieties. Upon completing his first master’s degree, Nasrollahiazar became the Head of the Seed Bank for the Department of Plant Variety Registration at the SPCRI, a position he served for one year.
More than 10 years after working with the SPCRI, he decided to refocus his career pathway. He said that although his job at the SPCRI was interesting, he recognized his love for wine.
Winemaking is one of his family’s traditions, and he has been making his own wine for seven years.
His enthusiasm for wine and agriculture prompted him to return to school for another master’s degree, this time in viticulture and enology, in one of the most recognized wine producing countries, Italy. His studies provided him with hands-on learning about all vineyard management aspects from planting to harvest.
An internship is a requirement of Italy’s Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore’s Viticulture and Enology program, which led Nasrollahiazar to MSU. Working as a visiting scholar with MSU researchers, he explored cold climate viticulture and investigated canopy and disease management in vineyards in southwest and northwest Michigan.
Through his experience in Michigan, he sparked a deeper interest in cold climate viticulture, grew to appreciate Michiganders, and decided to call our great state “home.”
Nasrollahiazar is eager to help the region’s growers find practical solutions for grape production challenges, and we are all excited to work with him.