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USDA Research Agency to Induct Three Scientists to Hall of Fame / September 18, 1997 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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USDA Research Agency to Induct Three Scientists to Hall of Fame

By Jan Suszkiw
September 18, 1997

WASHINGTON, Sept. 18--Innovative pest controls, disease-fighting “coats” for wheat seed and pioneering studies on photosynthesis illustrate career achievements that have earned three U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists a place in the Agricultural Research Service’s Science Hall of Fame.

ARS is USDA’s chief scientific research arm, operating more than 100 laboratories across the country as well as overseas facilities.

“ARS initiated the Hall of Fame program in 1986 to recognize the outstanding career achievements of scientists like Drs. Morton Beroza, R. James Cook and William L. Ogren,” said Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman. “Their work has gone far beyond the lab bench to the great benefit of agriculture and the consumer.”

Inductees to the Hall of Fame are agency scientists considered by their peers in the national and international communities to have made a major impact on agricultural research. They must be retired or eligible to retire to be considered for the Hall of Fame.

In an induction ceremony scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 24 at the U.S. National Arboretum here, each scientist will be presented with a plaque. Copies of the plaques citing their achievements will go on permanent display along with those for 39 other ARS Hall of Fame inductees at the agency’s National Visitor Center in Beltsville, Md.

Beroza, who resides in Silver Spring, Md., joined ARS in 1948. Before retiring in 1974, the chemist served as research leader for the Synthesis Investigations Unit at the agency’s Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. His expertise in analytical chemistry led to the development of “Disparlure,” a synthetic version of the gypsy moth’s natural chemical sex attractant, or pheromone. Disparlure is used in both detection and control strategies aimed at preventing the moth’s caterpillar offspring from defoliating trees.

In the early 1960's, Beroza identified, synthesized and patented a compound called Trimedlure. The compound attracts Mediterranean fruit flies, which are not native to the United States. If the fruit flies became established on the U.S. mainland, they would pose a serious threat to citrus and other produce in Florida, California and other temperate states. Today, Trimedlure is still the key ingredient in more than 50,000 medfly traps being used in state detection programs.

Cook joined ARS in 1965. He resides in Pullman, Wash., and conducts studies at ARS’ Root Disease and Biological Control Research Unit. Under Cook’s leadership, the lab is perfecting a new treatment for protecting wheat seed using a living coat of Pseudomonas fluorescens bacteria. The helpful microbes secrete antibiotics that stave off attack by the fungus that causes “take-all.” This disease costs farmers more than $1 billion annually in losses.

Cook’s work has also shown that by using shorter crop rotations, quality seed, precise placement of fertilizers and other practices, wheat farmers can maintain crop yields while conserving the soil with minimum tillage.

Ogren joined ARS in 1965 as a plant physiologist at the Photosynthesis Research Unit in Urbana, Ill. Ogren, who lives in Hilton Head, S.C., retired in 1995 after serving as a leader for plant physiology and production on ARS’ National Program Staff in Beltsville.

Ogren’s early studies helped to show how the natural enzyme rubisco regulates photosynthesis, the process by which plants produce their food (carbohydrates) using sunlight, water and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Using tools of molecular biology, plant researchers are now trying to modify rubisco in ways that will enable crop plants to carry out photosynthesis more efficiently for greater yields and productivity.

Ogren’s research also helped establish many of the equations by which computer models today simulate plant growth and productivity under various global climate change scenarios.

Contact: Press releases with further details on accomplishments of each Hall of Fame inductee can be obtained from the ARS Information Staff.

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