Dr. Ralph Scorza, research horticulturist and lead scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Appalachian Fruit Research Laboratory in Kearneysville, West Virginia, is one of four scientists named to the Agricultural Research Service’s Science Hall of Fame.
Scorza has done pioneering work to genetically enhance tree fruit structure and develop new stone fruit varieties. He has released 12 varieties of peach, nectarine, and plum, including some with disease resistance and improved flavor. He and his colleagues developed the FasTrack breeding system that dramatically reduced the generation time for stone fruits using a biotech approach to stimulate early flowering and fruiting. He developed the first genetically engineered plum-pox-virus-resistant tree fruit approved for cultivation in the United States.
Also named to the Hall of Fame was Dr. Scott Yates, soil scientist and research leader at the ARS Contaminant Fate and Transport Research Unit at the U.S. Salinity Laboratory in Riverside, California. He has researched ways to reduce the harmful effects of soil fumigation used for controlling pests in crops such as tree fruits and strawberries. He developed a technique for measuring the movement of fumigant though agricultural films used to trap emissions, which can be used to show where buffer zones of non-fumigated soil can be reduced and still leave passersby protected.
The other two scientists honored were Dr. Leon Kochian, director of the Robert W. Holley Center for Agriculture and Health in Ithaca, New York, and Dr. Donald Ort, plant physiologist and research leader at the Global Change and Photosynthesis Research Unit in Urbana, Illinois.