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Bernadine Strik, a renowned professor in the field of berry crops, passed away at the age of 60 on April 2, 2021, leaving behind a legacy that significantly impacted the agriculture industry. Her unwavering dedication to improving the blueberry production method changed the world, and her contributions to the industry will not be forgotten.
Born on June 8, 1960, Bernadine Strik spent her entire professional life studying ways to create more efficient and productive methods of berry farming. In 1982, she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture at the University of Maine, Orono. Upon completing her degree, Strik remained at the university to pursue her Master of Science degree, which she obtained in 1985. She continued her academic journey by enrolling in the Ph.D. program at Cornell University, where she received her doctorate in the horticulture department in 1993.
After completing her education, Strik began her academic career at the University of Maryland, where she was an Assistant Professor of Fruit Horticulture. Her passion for research on berry crops led her to Oregon State University, where she served as a faculty member for 28 years. Her groundbreaking research focused mainly on blueberries, but she also studied other crop species such as blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries. Strik’s research was innovative and forward-thinking, and it played a significant role in modernizing the blueberry industry.
Strik’s efforts in research and education were instrumental in bringing about changes in the production of blueberries. She was instrumental in modernizing the blueberry industry by introducing new varietal selections, cultural and propagation methods, and post-harvest technologies. Strik believed that berry crops could only thrive if they were grown in a sustainable manner, thus imparting her research methodology to maximize the utilization of resources and minimize waste.
Strik’s research on blueberry varieties included evaluating and sharing emerging cultivars that were suitable for Oregon’s specific climate conditions. She was integral in the development of the ‘Aurora,’ a blueberry variety that is highly popular and successful. Strik’s approach to the propagation of blueberries was innovative; she developed methods to propagate blueberries from softwood cuttings in addition to utilizing tissue culture. Her research on post-harvest handling and transportation was groundbreaking as she discovered that modified atmospheric packaging could extend the fruits’ shelf life while keeping their features intact.
Strik collaborated with the Oregon Blueberry Commission (OBC) actively. She was an advocate of practical field-oriented research, and her research outcomes were crucial in improving the state’s blueberry industry; her inventions were aimed at ensuring Oregon’s blueberry industry operates at optimal levels. She advised the OBC and its growers about best practices for production, pest control, postharvest management, and encouraged the promotion of Oregon blueberries. Strik also co-authored and authored several papers, journals, and books, which are instructional references for blueberry growers and researchers worldwide.
Strik’s unrelenting effort in research resulted in a well-trained workforce in the blueberry industry. She was passionate about teaching and shared her knowledge and research methodology with students to ensure the sustainability of the industry. Her students are now professionals in the industry and follow her steps in research, inspired by their mentor. Strik was a recipient of numerous awards, including the OSU Extension Service King Agricultural Achievement Award in 2019, the North American Blueberry Research and Extension Workers Award of Excellence in 2016, and the OSU Alumni Association Distinguished Professor Award, which is the highest academic recognition from OSU, amongst others.
In conclusion, Bernadine Strik’s contribution to the blueberry industry reveals her as an academic giant of her time. Her research, teaching, and publications have had enormous progress in the berry industry. Strik’s work on blueberries is so significant that it has benefited not only Oregon’s industry but also the country’s. She was a vociferous advocate of Ecological intensification and Resource use efficiency, and the blueberry crop industry’s productivity has drastically increased as a result. Strik is a legend whose teachings and research will continue to impact the future generations of scientists, growers, and consumers.