Texas A&M sorghum expert Dr. Lloyd Rooney dies

Writer: Kay Ledbetter, 806-6775608, skledbetter@ag.tamu.edu 

COLLEGE STATION – Dr. Lloyd Rooney, a Regents Professor and Faculty Fellow who retired in 2011 but remained on staff at the Texas A&M University department of soil and crop sciences as an emeritus professor, died on June 23.

Dr. Lloyd Rooney. (Photo by Megan Rooney)

Rooney retired after 46 years and was the creator of Texas A&M’s Cereal Quality Lab in 1965. His specialty was in the area of food science and technology. His work included determining food and feed quality traits of sorghum, corn, wheat and pearl millet, as well as identifying special sorghums for use in ethnic and dietary foods.

“Dr. Rooney frequently told the story of how he came to the soil and crop sciences department and how colleagues kept asking him why he did not move to a food science department,” said Dr. David Baltensperger, head of the Texas A&M soil and crop sciences department, College Station. “His response was ‘because I can make a greater impact by working with breeders than by working with other food scientists,’

“The impact of his work and the legacy of his students lives on from the world of tortillas to the many food products that now have a sorghum ingredient added,” Baltensperger said. “A great example comes from new sorghum ingredient cereals made possible by the release of Onyx sorghum by his son, Dr. Bill Rooney, with high antioxidant characteristics identified by Lloyd’s research. His knack for product development brought leaders from the snack food, cereal and tortilla industries to the department on a regular basis.”

Rooney spent a lifetime understanding mechanisms that influenced the quality of cereal grains and determining how process modifications affected a variety of products such as pretzels, tortilla chips, popped and puffed products and ready-to-eat cereals, as well as many other snack foods and processing techniques. 

Sorghum was not the only cereal grain where Rooney’s work made a difference.

“It was Dr. Rooney’s concentrated effort of increased testing and quality monitoring at the Wheat Quality Lab that led to the improved baking and milling qualities in Texas wheat today,” said Dr. Jackie Rudd, Texas A&M AgriLife Research wheat breeder, Amarillo. “Twenty years ago, TAM wheat was known as being ‘adequate’ bread quality – now TAM wheat varieties are sought out by the milling and baking industry because of their superior bread-making quality.”

Rooney also initiated research in Mali that stimulated profitable food production from African grains, led research and hosted numerous workshops for the tortilla industry, as well as provided data on quality for numerous wheat cultivars.

Rooney was a member of the Texas A&M University Intercollegiate Faculty of Food. In 2007, he was awarded the Texas A&M Presidential Award of Excellence for Faculty Service to International Students and was inducted into the Mexican Academy of Science for his research on maize and mentoring of Mexican students.

Rooney served as a consultant to the U.S. Grains Council, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, International Foundation for Science, University of Pretoria, Embrapa-Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, and the National Center of Agricultural and Forest Technology in Central America.

Funeral arrangements and more information on Rooney are available at https://www.callawayjones.com/lloyd-william-rooney/.

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