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About the Small Fruit Program

Dr. Fernandez received a PhD in Pomology from Cornell University and a M.S. in Horticulture from the University of Minnesota.  In between her graduate degrees, she worked with Drs. John Clark and Jim Moore at the University of Arkansas as a research specialist in the small fruit breeding program.  She has been at North Carolina State University since 1996, where she is currently a Professor/Small Fruit Specialist in the Department of Horticultural Science.  Dr. Fernandez has responsibilities in Extension, research and teaching. She teaches HS 422, Small Fruit Production.

In 2004, Dr. Fernandez became the leader of the Caneberry Breeding Program. She is responsible for the development of raspberry and blackberry varieties adapted to North Carolina. The primary focus of the program is to develop raspberry varieties that are heat tolerance and have a high chilling requirement. Dr. Fernandez collaborates with Dr. Penny Perkins-Veazie to evaluate post harvest attributes and levels of bioactive compounds in Rubus germplasm. In collaboration with Dr. Bryon Sosinski, they are mapping important traits such as heat tolerance, high chilling and thorn density. Dr. Fernandez, is a partner on four federal grants focused on caneberry breeding and cultural studies.

Dr. Fernandez’s extension activities focus on helping agents and farmers grow caneberries in North Carolina. She gives numerous talks each year both in and out of the southeastern US. She is the co-author of Southeast Regional Bramble Integrated Management Guide and key contributor to the Blackberry and Raspberry Growers Information Portal. She also manages several social media sites that help disseminate timely research and extension information related to caneberry and other small fruit production. Dr. Fernandez is an active participant in grower organizations including, the North Carolina Commercial Blackberry and Raspberry Association, Southern Regional Small Fruit Consortium, the North Carolina Strawberry Association, the North American Bramble Growers Association, and the NC Specialty Crops Program.

On the international front, she has spent time in Europe, South America and South Africa touring small fruit growers and research institutes as a small fruit expert. In 2010, she served as an Expert Examiner for the EU FP7 to review small fruit proposals. In 2011, she worked with USAID to help Serbian growers develop production practices for fresh fruit production.

To date, Dr. Fernandez has advised 2 post doctoral scientists, 1 visiting scholar, 3 PhD students and 13 MS students. She has published numerous peer reviewed articles and hundreds of extension electronic and hard copy publications. She has released red raspberry variety, ‘Nantahala’ in 2007 and one blackberry, ‘Von’ in 2012.