The Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the USDA’s chief intramural scientific research agency, has named four scientists to the Science Hall of Fame. Their accomplishments are in the fields of sustainable farming, fruit tree breeding, air quality, climate change, crop mineral nutrition and discoveries in genomics. They were honored for outstanding, lifelong achievements in agricultural science and technology at a ceremony at the National Agricultural Library.
“The extraordinary contributions of these four scientists have had a significant impact on food and agriculture worldwide,” said ARS Administrator Chavonda Jacobs-Young. “Their outstanding accomplishments demonstrate commitment, knowledge and perseverance and exemplify the values that have made ARS the premier agricultural research organization that it is today.”
Leon V. Kochian, center director of the ARS Robert W. Holley Center for Agriculture & Health in Ithaca, New York, is a world leader in research on the adaptation of cereal crops to marginal soils, especially those limited by mineral deficiencies. Some of his most important work has been unraveling the strategies that plants use to tolerate toxic metals in the highly weathered soils of the tropics and subtropics. This work is helping subsistence farmers in the developing countries grow more crops and has contributed to global food security.
Donald R. Ort, plant physiologist and research leader of the ARS Global Change and Photosynthesis Research Unit in Urbana, Illinois, has been unraveling how climate change will affect biochemical processes related to plant development, photosynthesis, water use and crop yields. His research made it possible for the first time to conduct field studies on the interactions of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide with drought and rising atmospheric carbon dioxide with warming on crops. He and his group then identified promising ways to improve crops such as soybeans and corn to meet future food production needs under potential changing climatic conditions.
Ralph Scorza, a research horticulturist and lead scientist at the ARS Appalachian Fruit Research Laboratory in Kearneysville, West Virginia, is internationally recognized for his work genetically enhancing fruit tree structure, developing new stone fruit varieties, and for using biotechnology techniques to improve woody perennial fruit species. Scorza has released 12 varieties of peaches, nectarines and plums, including those with disease resistance and improved flavors. His group also developed the ‘FasTrack’ breeding system that dramatically reduces the generation time for stone fruit species and developed the first genetically engineered Plum pox virus resistant fruit tree.
Scott R. Yates, soil scientist and research leader of the ARS Contaminant Fate and Transport Research Unit at the U.S. Salinity Laboratory in Riverside, California, is an internationally renowned expert in reducing the harmful effects of soil fumigation used for controlling pests in high-valued crops such as strawberries, vegetables, tree fruits and nuts, and in mitigating the atmospheric emissions from such fumigants. His technique to measure fumigant (vapor) movement through agricultural films used to trap emissions has become an American Society for Testing and Materials standard and has been adopted by industry for measuring film permeability.