2008 Honorary Life Member Selections

clip_image002_005DR. KEITH A. KELLING

Keith was the extension soil fertility management specialist in field crops in the Department of Soil Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Keith established a large research program that addressed practical nutrient management issues in potato production systems. Potato research comprised less than half of his research activities, yet his program had impacts on nutrient management throughout WI, the surrounding region, and beyond. Research programs in potato were targeted at management of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, and other essential nutrients for optimal yields and minimal impacts on the environment.

Keith was a leading researcher in the development of nutrient management systems for potato nationwide for over 20 years. Particular research foci on nutrient management were optimizing timing of nitrogen fertilizer applications on sand soils of Central WI, calcium fertility, phosphorous and potassium fertility in potato, and using nitrogen tissue sampling for adjusting nutrient management after leaching events. Keith also evaluated countless non-traditional fertilizers and nutrient amendments for their impact on crop growth, yield and quality. He summarized the evaluations of non-traditional materials in an easy to read format that was frequently updated to reflect the flood of materials being marketed throughout the US. More recently he evaluated the influence of manure applications on potato productivity and paid special attention to the impact on potential defects such as common scab.

Keith was well known for his dedication, service and honesty with the potato and vegetable industry of Wisconsin and across the US. He was a firm believer and practitioner of utilizing research based information to support his extension program and recommendation system. As one of the growers who wrote a letter supporting his nomination stated, ‘Dr. Kelling’s work on N management in potato systems is well documented as is his work on P and K. His program on evaluating non conventional soil additives has saved growers a lot of money over the years and made some salesmen very unhappy. Keith was invited to speak across the country on this topic which was summarized by a colleague, ‘I recall inviting Keith out to Idaho back in the mid 1980’s to speak on the topic of “non-conventional amendments”, which was a very controversial topic at the time. Unlike most of the rhetoric on that topic at that time, Keith gave a very balanced, professional presentation based on facts and scientific experimentation, which went a long way to calming the controversy and allowing reason to prevail.

Keith has been a member of the PAA for more than 25 years during his career. He was a key member of the potato and vegetable extension team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He helped organize the 2004 Symposium on “The Future Role of Extension in the Potato Industry” and served on the local arrangements committee for 2006 PAA meeting. Keith was a member of the Extension and Production Sections of PAA and an avid participant in the annual meeting and the annual Golf Outing. Keith still attends and participates in the annual meeting of PAA, recently presenting a summary on nutrient management factors affecting post harvest quality of potato.

It is an honor for me and for our entire Wisconsin potato team to have worked with Keith over his career and to support his award for Honorary Life Membership in The Potato Association of America.

~AJ Bussan, Carrie Laboski, Jeff Wyman
Walt Stevenson, Larry Binning, Jed Colquhoun and Russ Groves, Nominators

clip_image002_007DR. SUSAN B. “RIKKI” STERRETT

Dr. Susan B. “Rikki” Sterrett has been an active member of PAA for 22 years. Rikki was born in Salem, New Jersey, but grew up on a dairy farm in Elkton, Maryland. She received her BS degree in 1974 from the Department of Horticulture, University of Maryland, majoring in Floriculture and Ornamental Horticulture. Then it was on to The Ohio State University for an MS in Nutrition of Ornamentals and a marriage proposal from her office mate, Rich. Rikki completed her PhD at the University of Maryland in Vegetable Nutrition 13 months after their first son was born. During a post-doc in the Biological Sciences Engineering Lab at USDA-Beltsville, their second son was born. Shortly thereafter, in 1983, the family moved to Painter, VA where she was appointed to the Horticulturist position at the Virginia Truck and Ornamental Research Center. After the merger with VA Tech, she gained tenure in the Department of Horticulture in 1991.

Rikki has been an extremely strong advocate of PAA, and the potato industry. She has been an active member in all areas of our Association, being involved in three sections: Physiology, Extension, and Production. In both the Extension and Physiology Sections she served as Secretary, Vice Chair, and Chair. In 1989, she was Chair of the Annual Symposium on “Potato Crop Management: The Need for an Integrated Approach”. She served as a PAA Director from 1999 to 2003. She was on the Finance Committee from 1988 to 2005 and the Graduate Student Competition Committee from 2003 to 2005. Rikki also chaired the membership Committee from 1999-2004. She has presented numerous papers at annual meetings as well as published in the Journal and reviewed papers for publication.

Rikki’s research into the mechanisms and genetics of internal heat necrosis (IHN) has provided a wealth of information for growers and breeders. Prediction models based on environmental conditions were developed to inform growers when ‘Atlantic’ will be susceptible to IHN, and when IHN will be too severe to be acceptable for chipping. As a member of the “Eastern Potato Mafia,” she has assisted at potato harvest from Florida to Maine and has participated in the development, production, analyses, and writing of numerous journal articles focusing on every aspect of IHN in Atlantic. This research has not led to any quick cures for IHN, but it has informed growers wherever ‘Atlantic’ is grown that there is not one treatment to prevent IHN. Even though ‘Atlantic’ is widely grown for potato chips directly out of the field, the growers are aware of the risks. For the potato breeder, Dr. Sterrett has helped provide information on which parents to use to create the unique combination of high yield, specific gravity, and chip color without the IHN and hollow heart.

As a friend and colleague, Rikki was always willing to participate in cooperative research and pooling both information and equipment to help solve problems for potato growers. Dr. Sterrett exemplifies a professional potato (vegetable) scientist of whom all can be proud. She is the caliber of colleague with whom you want to collaborate.

~Melvin R. Henninger, Nominator