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BRYAN – A memorial service for Dr. Leonard Pike, pioneer of the Texas 1015 Supersweet onion, is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at the Still Creek Ranch, 6055 Hearne Road in Bryan.
Pike was a Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist who also pioneered the Aggie maroon Beta Sweet carrot and a string of other vegetables that contributed billions to the Texas economy. He died Jan. 12. He was 78.
“Dr. Pike’s passion for developing healthy veggies helped producers and has had a long-lasting impact on human health and reducing health care cost,” said Dr. Bhimu Patil, director of the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center at Texas A&M University in College Station. “My job, as the Director of the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center, is to continually expand his work by providing scientific proof of concept of health benefits of fruits and vegetables through the help of transdisciplinary scientists using systems-wide approach. This way consumers will eat more healthy produce while producers will make a reasonable profit. His kindness, encouragement, and nobility have positively influenced many of his colleagues, students and staff.”
Pike retired from Texas A&M AgriLife in 2006 as a horticulture professor and vegetable breeder. The Arkansas native said at the time of his retirement that vegetable production was not at the top of his list of interests once he got to college.
Onion growers in the Rio Grande Valley who were wanting to solve problems with inconsistency and disease came to Pike for his expertise. Pike, who had already bred successful cucumber varieties, developed the 1015 onion, which he named after the planting month and date, Oct. 15. It was originally dubbed Texas 1015, but became known simply as the 1015 in producer circles.
The name stuck, and an onion study from 1983-98 showed a $1.2 billion value to the state’s economy from the 1015, with $360 million going to farmers during that period.