WASHINGTON, September 16, 2009Three Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have been inducted into the agency's Science Hall of Fame for research accomplishments that include improving rice varieties, increasing crop productivity in arid climates, and enhancing human and bovine health by focusing on safeguards to dairy cattle and milk.
Geneticist J. Neil Rutger, soil scientist B.A. Stewart and dairy scientist Max J. Paape will be honored in a ceremony tonight at the ARS U.S. National Arboretum.
"These researchers' results have had long-term, lasting value to science and society, and contribute important national priorities of responding to climate change, food safety and health, and global food security," said ARS Administrator Edward B. Knipling. "They serve as exemplars of excellence in scientific research because of their creativity and dedication, the range of their scientific contributions and their service to both the agricultural community and the public."
ARS has been honoring former and senior agency researchers with the Hall of Fame program since 1986. Nominees are retired or eligible to retire. They are selected by their peers for outstanding career-long achievements in agricultural science and technology.
Neil Rutger was an ARS researcher for 18 years in California before he became director of the Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center in Stuttgart, Ark., in 1993. Over the years, he developed semi-dwarf varieties of rice that increased crop yields by up to 20 percent. His first semi-dwarf rice cultivar, Calrose 76, was integral to the development of dozens of dwarf varieties now used to breed rice around the world. By some estimates, Calrose 76 and successors developed in California added an estimated $1 billion to California's economy.
Rutger also was instrumental in developing jasmine rice cultivars for United States growers, and his search for genes among rice's weedy relatives to resist stem rot disease was the first such attempt in the United States. Subsequent research has identified several genes among weedy relatives that resist other rice diseases.
In a career spanning almost 50 years, B.A. Stewart contributed to areas as diverse as animal waste management, soil and water conservation, crop production and environmental quality. As director of the agency's Conservation and Production Research Laboratory in Bushland, Texas, he focused much of his work on managing scarce water and soil resources in harsh arid and semi-arid regions.
Stewart conducted the first experiments on use of anhydrous ammonia as a fertilizer, and his work on nitrate accumulation in fields and feedlots opened the door to research examining the environmental impacts of various agricultural practices. As a member and chairman of various soil and water quality management panels and task forces, he was instrumental in developing national environmental guidelines still used today.
Max Paape, a researcher with the ARS Bovine Functional Genomics Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., is an internationally recognized authority on bovine mastitis, the most costly disease to the U.S. cattle industry. In studies with researchers at Oklahoma State University, he found that subclinical mastitis is common in beef cattle, but that giving antibiotics at weaning reduces its prevalence. The findings are credited with saving the beef industry $1 billion annually. He also developed several treatments for mastitis, including alternatives to antibiotics that changed the way many drug company scientists view the effectiveness of non-antibiotic therapies.
Early in his career, Paape developed procedures for using milk somatic cell counts (MSCC) as an index of udder health, and he was a pioneer in using MSCC to assess milk quality. He also led research into how long dairy and meat products should be withheld from the market after cattle are treated with antibiotics. The Food and Drug Administration used the results in establishing relevant food safety standards.
ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.