WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2004--More vigorous alfalfa plants,
easy-care cotton fabrics and advances in beef cattle breeding have earned three
Agricultural Research Service scientists places in the agency's
Science Hall of Fame. ARS is
the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Donald K. Barnes, Ruth Rogan Benerito and Keith E. Gregory will
be honored in a ceremony tonight at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington.
They will be presented plaques citing their respective accomplishments.
"These three scientists, with more than 100 years of collective
service in ARS, have made major contributions to the field of agricultural
research," said ARS Administrator Edward B. Knipling.
The ARS Hall of Fame program began in 1986 to recognize agency
researchers for outstanding achievements in agricultural science. The inductees
are nominated by their peers and must be retired, or eligible to retire, to
receive the honor.
Barnes was a pioneer in alfalfa breeding and genetics. For 30
years, he conducted or led others in alfalfa research at the agency's Plant
Science Research Unit in St. Paul, Minn. Striving to improve the crop's
resistance to diseases and insects and its ability to transform nitrogen from
the air into a form usable by the plant as "natural fertilizer," he developed
59 new alfalfa varieties and sources of starter seed material, or germplasm,
throughout his career.
The research on alfalfa's natural ability to "fix" or make its
own nitrogen was perhaps Barnes' most notable achievement. That work, which
included the establishment of a plant breeding program that is still ongoing,
has helped reduce the need for additional fertilizer and the potential for
excess nitrogen to cause surface and groundwater pollution. Barnes and his
colleagues earned the USDA Secretary's Certificate of Merit Award in 1982 for
their nitrogen fixation research.
For 33 years, Benerito worked at what is now the agency's
Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans, La. As research leader of the
Physical-Chemical Investigations Unit in the Cotton Chemical Reactions
Laboratory, she played a key role in groundbreaking research that helped bring
smooth-drying properties to cotton fibers, boosting their competitiveness with
synthetic fibers introduced in the 1950s and '60s.
That cotton became the standard for apparel fabrics because it
combined comfort and breathability with easy care. The work helped to trigger a
remarkable 20-year expansion of cotton use for apparel, revitalizing an old
industry. It also earned Benerito a Lemelson-Massachusetts Institute of
Technology Lifetime Achievement Award for Invention, which honors individuals
for their lifelong commitment to improving society through invention.
After a 43-year career with ARS, Gregory is being recognized for
his contributions to beef cattle genetics and breeding. His research has helped
shape the selection procedures and breeding systems used to capitalize on the
benefits of crossbreeding in the U.S. beef cattle industry.
Gregory was the first director of ARS' Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat
Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Neb. Through his leadership and vision,
a multidisciplinary research program was established that is now
internationally recognized. As a collaborator, Gregory continues to offer
guidance on a research project that is investigating the selection of specific
cattle for breeding purposes based on those animals' increased likelihood of
giving birth to multiple calves.
Permanent copies of the plaques presented to the scientists will
be on display at the ARS National Visitor Center in Beltsville, Md.