Oregon State University horticulture professor Bernadine Strick, who shocked the U.S. blueberry industry with his innovative cultivation strategy, died April 14 at a hospital in Corvallis, Oregon. he was 60 years old.
Her husband, Neil Bell, said the cause was complications from ovarian cancer.
Modern agriculture is as much a science as labor, and Dr. Strick, whose career at Oregon State University began in 1987, brought a skeptical, scientific approach to blueberry cultivation.
But she was also acutely aware of the practical demands faced by farmers, as her parents ran a nursery and landscaping business.
“She was able to connect with the growers,” said Scott Lucas, who will take the post of Endowed Professor of Oregon State Northwestbury Production after Dr. Strick retired in 2021, in a telephone interview. He added that she was able to look at the research “from a realistic perspective” and “become human and not get lost in the scientific world.”
Blueberries have been systematically cultivated in the United States since the early 20th century. However, demand has increased in recent decades as scientists tout the fruit’s health benefits and greater availability in packaged forms such as frozen, pureed, freeze-dried and powdered.
According to one study, the United States was the largest producer of blueberries until 2021, but was overtaken by China. report Last month, from the Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service.
When Dr. Strick began investigating the Oregon blueberry industry, growers thought the size of a mature bush needed that much space, so growers placed plants four feet apart in rows. I discovered that there is She also observed that blueberry plants were grown freestanding without a trellis, and that sawdust was commonly used as mulch because it was cheap and effective at killing weeds.
In a series of studies that took years to complete, Strick found that changing these practices could improve yields, according to a 2021 report. profile On the Oregon Blueberry Commission website.
She found that when blueberry saplings were planted about three feet apart, yield did not decrease as they grew, and yield increased by 50 percent as they grew. The use of the trellis prevented an average of 4-8% loss of blueberry crops during mechanical harvesting. And using sawdust plus a weed mat (often a synthetic material) to cover the ground around the plants increased yields by up to 10 percent, even when the weeds were effectively controlled by the sawdust.
“It was simply due to the change the weed mat had on soil temperature,” she says.
Dr. Strick helped organic growers maximize yields by planting on raised beds rather than flat ground. This technology has also benefited traditional farms. She persuaded many berry growers in and out of Oregon to accept her research and adopt countermeasures.
The Federal Agricultural Research Service, part of the Ministry of Agriculture, said: news release In 2022, it was announced that “all berry crop industries in Oregon and around the world are benefiting from Strik’s research.”
Thanks to that study, the agency said, “Yields increased dramatically during the development period, and organic production increased from less than 2 percent of Oregon’s area to more than 20 percent.”
Bernadine Cornelia Strick was born on 29 April 1962 in The Hague to Gerald and Christine (Alchemade) Strick.
In 1965, the Strikes family moved to Tantanura, a small South Australian town where his father worked in the forestry industry. Tired of the heat, however, the family moved to Canada in 1971 and opened a nursery and landscaping business in Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island.
After high school, Dr. Strick received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Victoria on Vancouver Island in 1983. She received her doctorate in horticulture from the University of Guelph in Ontario in 1987. She then immediately got a job at Oregon State University. in Corvallis.
One of the students there was Mr. Bell, who came to Oregon in 1990 to pursue a master’s degree in horticulture. They got married in 1994.
In addition to her husband, who lived with her in Monmouth, Oregon, she has two surviving daughters, Shannon Bell and Nicole Bell.
In 2021, when she retired, Dr. Strick was appointed a Fellow of the International Society for Horticultural Science, Duke Garetta Horticultural Research Excellence Award From the North American Blueberry Council.
Lucas said her 20 graduate students were an important part of her legacy. He pointed out that Dr. Strick taught me not only academic rigor, but also the ability to communicate practically and effectively, a skill he called “a science in itself.”
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