University of Georgia researcher Dario Chavez has been named to the Fruit and Vegetable 40 Under 40 Class of 2020 by Fruit Growers News. The prestigious honor places Chavez within a small group of young professionals who are making remarkable contributions within the industry.A native of Riobamba, Ecuador, and part of an accomplished farm with a lineage spanning four generations, Chavez began his stint at UGA in 2014 as a researcher and UGA Cooperative Extension specialist. He has since implemented groundbreaking research focusing on plant production and environmental sustainability with a focus on one of Georgia’s key crops — peaches.“The UGA peach research and extension program in the Department of Horticulture had been vacant for almost eight years before my hire,” said Chavez. “One of my major accomplishments is the setup and establishment of a functional research and extension program from scratch.”At age 36, his achievements in the peach industry have been remarkable and deserving of the important award, which he describes as “an honor and a great recognition.” His peers at UGA have since echoed the praise.“Since joining UGA, Dr. Chavez has established himself as an outstanding faculty member and an esteemed scientist,” said Leo Lombardini, head of the Department of Horticulture in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “He has been extremely productive in terms of the number of graduate students advised, peer-reviewed and Extension publications generated, grants acquisition, and overall impact on the peach industry.”While maintaining valuable progress in orchard management, tree longevity and other vital production efforts, Chavez has begun shifting his focus toward technological innovation by partnering with the Vellidis research group on the UGA Tifton campus to develop a SmartIrrigation application for peach crops.During his time at UGA, Chavez has not limited the scope of his work and research to the state of Georgia.He also evaluates and manages newly released rootstocks for peaches at various research farms and serves as a state representative of the NC140 Regional Rootstock Research Project.“Our main goal is to improve economic and environmental sustainability in tree fruit production through changes in rootstock use,” said Chavez of the program’s initiative. The project allows Chavez to collaborate with researchers from around the country to address high priority areas within the north central region and other parts of North America.According to Lombardini, Chavez’s recognition as part of this diverse class of researchers shows his dedication to improving a variety of practices within the industry, while also mentoring students and young researchers.He will be honored at the Great Lakes Expo Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market and recognized in the October 2020 issues of Fruit Growers News and Vegetable Growers News.For more information on the Fruit and Vegetable 40 Under 40 Class of 2020, visit fruitgrowersnews.com/class-year/class-of-2020. To learn more about the UGA Department of Horticulture, see hort.caes.uga.edu.