L. Peter Christensen 1934-2011
Internationally renowned California viticulture scientist dies.
During his 40-year career with the University of California, L. “Pete” Christensen became a leading authority on grapevine nutrition and fertility, developing diagnostic and nutrition recommendations for California vineyards that are still followed today. Christensen, 76, died September 25 after a battle with cancer.
Christensen grew up on his family’s vineyard in Selma, near Fresno, California, received his bachelor of science degree from California State University, Fresno, and his master of science from the University of California, Davis. He then joined the UC Cooperative Extension staff in San Benito County, returning a year later to his roots as a viticulture farm advisor in Fresno County. He served Fresno County raisin, table, and wine grape growers for nearly 25 years.
In 1984, he was promoted to UC viticulture specialist, stationed at UC’s Kearney Agricultural Center in Parlier, where he retired in 1999. He conducted practical research on a broad range of topics—wine grape varieties, pest and disease management, and raisin production, but it was his grapevine nutrition and fertility research that had impact. In addition to his work on nutrition, he helped develop the concept of dried-on-the-vine raisins that could be harvested mechanically.
Active in many industry-related groups, Christensen was a member of the San Joaquin Valley Vineyard Technical Group, liaison officer of the Research Advisory Committee for Raisins and Table Grapes, board member of the California Grape Rootstock Improvement Commission, California Grape Rootstock Research Foundation, and the UC Foundation Plant Materials Service advisory committee.
He authored and co-authored more than 250 technical papers and research articles, including several UC bulletins and publications. He received the best research paper award twice from the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture, served as president of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture and received its Merit Award in 2004, the society’s highest honor given to a grape research scientist in the United States. He also received the James H. Meyer Distinguished Achievement Award, given by UC Davis for exceptional career achievement.
In recognition of his work in the raisin industry, the new raisin variety “Selma Pete” was named after him in 2002.
Christensen is survived by his wife Eleanor, three sons, and three grandchildren.