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During his 15 years at Kearney, Jensen identified recent agricultural science graduates and hired them as staff research associates to work with him in the field and in his lab. He trained them on the most recent plant science research techniques, imparting skills for future careers as farm advisors.
UC Cooperative Extension advisors that worked with Jensen include George Leavitt, retired UCCE advisor in Madera County, viticulture; Harry Andris, retired UCCE advisor in Fresno County, tree crops; Bob Beede, UCCE advisor in Kings County, tree crops; Larry Bettiga, UCCE advisor in Monterey County, viticulture; Rhonda Smith, UCCE advisor in Sonoma County, viticulture; and Mary Bianchi, UCCE advisor in San Luis Obispo County, horticulture.
“Jensen was soft-spoken, had a good sense of humor and honest to a fault,” said Fred Swanson, the former director of Kearney. “He was an outstanding researcher, an accomplished photographer and has made a greater impact than anyone I’ve known by investing himself in other people.”
Jenson was raised on a farm in Weedpatch, Kern County. He earned a bachelor’s degree in soil science at UC Berkeley in 1942, then served for three years in the U.S. Army. He later earned a master’s degree in horticulture from UC Davis.
In 1947, Jensen was hired as an assistant farm advisor by UC Cooperative Extension in Tulare County at a salary of $3,600 per year. In 1972 he was promoted to viticulture specialist at Kearney.
As both a farm advisor and specialist, he worked to develop and obtain registration for commercial products to benefit the state’s grape growers, such as plant growth regulators and many other critical agricultural chemicals. Jensen’s detailed research on gibberellic acid applications helped identify optimal rates and timing that had eluded previous UC researchers. His work on bloom time applications have become an industry standard. Jensen also did the initial work on ethephon, a plant growth regulator used to enhance and improve fruit color. Jensen developed the use of ethephon to enhance raisin maturity, which almost eliminated the loss of raisin crops from early rains.
Jensen researched cultivar selection, vine spacing, trellising and integrated pest management. An early promoter of IPM practices, his contributions were instrumental in production of the UC Grape Pest Management Manual. He was the author or co-author of more than 250 publications and his scientific work is referenced in textbooks, journals and other viticulture publications. Jensen was a longtime editor of the scientific journal American Enology and Viticulture and was a world authority on table grape production.
Jensen retired from UC Cooperative Extension in 1987, but continued to conduct research and extension work for decades as an emeritus viticulture specialist and private viticulture consultant. In honor of his life-long body of work, Jensen received the Merit Award from the American Society for Enology and Viticulture in 2001. He was recognized for his contributions to California’s table grape industry at the 6th International Table Grape Symposium in 2010.
Jensen is survived by his wife of 27 years, Thelma Lile Essex, two daughters, three step-children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. April 28 at Quail Park Retirement Village, 5420 W. Cypress Ave., Visalia, Calif.
They're tiny--about 1/5 of an inch long. They feed at night and hide during the day.There's a good...
A group of world IPM leaders presented UC Cooperative Extension integrated pest management advisor Walt Bentley with its Lifetime Achievement Award at the 7th International IPM Symposium March 27 in Memphis, Tenn. Bentley also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Applied IPM Ecologists in February.
Professionals and academics in the field of integrated pest management convene the international symposium annually to bring together the scientists and people who practice IPM every day in agriculture, natural areas and community settings to collaborate and develop collective strategies. Some of the modern IPM challenges the group addresses are herbicide resistance, bed bugs and invasive species. For more than 20 years, these experts in pest management have selected champions in their field to receive awards of excellence.
Bentley began his UC career in 1977 as a UC IPM entomologist focusing on pest problems in almonds, grapes and stone fruit. Since that time, he has been committed to three major goals as part of the UC Statewide IPM Program:
- Coordinate with others
- Do research that meets the needs of farmers
- Develop relevant outreach
Bentley and a team of UC Cooperative Extension advisors and specialists and collaborating farmers developed IPM approaches and alternative control strategies that successfully reduce the use of the highest risk insecticides (carbamates and organophosphates) in California by 80 to 90 percent in almonds, table grapes and tree fruit. This reduction helps the environment and the producers.