A Mississippi State University Extension Service fruit crops expert recently received recognition for his work on a national project.

Eric Stafne was honored with the 2012 eXtension Community of Practice Individual Achievement Award based on his leadership as project director for the National Grape Community of Practice. The eXtension website is an online consortium of Extension Service experts with nearly 60 topical resource areas, called communities of practice.

“This website is a national initiative to get research-based information to people who need it, regardless of where they live,” Stafne said. “The Grape Community of Practice has information that applies to commercial and hobby grape producers anywhere.”

Stafne began his work with the Grape Community of Practice at its inception in 2009 while at Oklahoma State University.

“There is an increased interest in growing grapes in the South,” Stafne said. “In addition to muscadine wine produced by existing wineries, I feel there is a growing demand for regional wines. Some of the surrounding states already have expanded agriculture production to include bunch grapes, and it’s an area of potential agriculture development in Mississippi.”

He joined MSU’s Extension Service in November 2011 and works with the state’s fruit crops producers, particularly blueberry growers.

“We were very fortunate to recruit Dr. Stafne to Mississippi State University,” said Patricia Knight, director of MSU’s Coastal Research and Extension Center. “While this award pertains to grapes, Eric is well-respected in the field of small fruit production. I have no doubt that he will have a positive impact on our producers in Mississippi.”