The Alaska Peony Growers Association has given University of Alaska Fairbanks Professor Mingchu Zhang its Growers Cup Award for his research supporting the peony industry.
Members of the statewide association gave Zhang the annual award during its winter conference, which ended Sunday at the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel.
Ron and Marji Illingworth, North Pole peony growers and conference chairs, said growers vote on the award, which is given to an individual who provides key support to the peony industry. Zhang has presented regularly at the conference on his research relating to plant nutrition, fertilizer and soils needed for optimum peony growth. He gave a presentation this year on peony micronutrient deficiencies and leaf color.
“He’s been very much connected with us for quite a few years,” said Ron Illingworth.
UAF Emeritus Horticulture Professor Pat Holloway, the first recipient of the award, said Zhang is a dedicated researcher who has written and participated in several grants that have helped “decipher the complexities of plant nutrition for peonies.”
“He’s worked one-on-one with growers from Fairbanks to Homer,” she said.
Zhang is a professor of agronomy and soil sciences with the School of Natural Resources and Extension. His research has focused on nutrient management, soils, and peony, forage and agronomic field crop production.
Illingworth said more than 125 people attended the conference, which focused on growing and marketing peonies. Most were Alaska growers or individuals considering growing peonies, but the three-day conference also drew growers from California, New York, Oregon, Washington and Arkansas.