Clint Shock

Clint Shock stands with Joyce Loper, associate dean of the Oregon State University College of Agricultural Sciences, during the Diamond Pioneer Registry induction ceremony on Oct. 2 in Corvallis.

CORVALLIS — On Oct. 2, Dr. Clint Shock was inducted into Diamond Pioneer Registry at Oregon State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences. The induction ceremony was held on campus in Corvallis.

The College of Agricultural Sciences wishes to honor people whose lifetime contributions to agriculture, natural resources, and the people of Oregon and/or Oregon State University have been significant. The Diamond Pioneer award provides the opportunity to publicly recognize these accomplishments of individuals who have contributed to the well-being of their community, industry, or state. Honorees become permanent members of the Diamond Pioneer Agricultural Achievement Registry in the College of Agricultural Sciences. The Diamond Pioneer Registry was established in March 1983 when the College Of Agricultural Sciences observed its 75th anniversary. 

Dr. Clint Shock is being honored for his many contributions to the onion industry and agriculture in general and to his contributions to the community in Malheur County and the Treasure Valley. Although Clint was born in Hollywood, he decided not to live the glamourous life of a movie star. Instead he has dedicated his life to science and using his knowledge to constructively help others.

Clint became fascinated with growing things during his childhood in Long Beach and Garden Grove, CA and he kept this passion through school. Clint enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley. There he met his future wife, Candace and they were married in 1966. After Clint earned his B.A. Degree in Mathematics, the Shocks moved to Gloria de Dourados, in Brazil’s mid-western state of Mato Grosso, where they served as missionaries for four years. Clint’s duties were to develop sustainable cultural practices for the crops of homesteaders, and to develop financial credit systems and reliable markets for those crops. The most lasting contribution of his work on the Brazilian frontier was not the technical advice on crop production, but the use of micro-finance loans to prove to the banks the credit worthiness of those poor farmers.

After that early work in Brazil, Clint earned an M.Sc. Degree in Horticulture at the University of California at Davis. The Shocks then returned to Brazil, where Clint became a project leader at the IRI Research Institute in the Sao Paulo Mountains of southeast Brazil. His responsibilities were to conduct research on the revegetation of infertile cut and fill subsoils, by identifying plant species adapted to those conditions, and developing management systems for those plants.

Several years later, Clint became the manager of a large farm that produced coffee and soybeans. However, a severe frost in 1975 killed the coffee trees and consequently Clint’s job so he then assumed management of an experiment station in the interior of the state of São Paulo. There, he began collecting and identifying over 700 new germplasm accessions of grasses and legumes. He utilized the most promising of these in revegetation research in the Amazon, and he shared his knowledge by writing practical manuals for the proper management of revegetation programs.

Following their many years of service in Brazil, the Shocks returned once again to the USA, where Clint earned the Ph.D. Degree in Plant Physiology at the University of California at Davis. His dissertation topic regarded pasture and rangeland fertility and competition among plants for scarce resources. Thereafter, Clint became an Assistant Professor at the Louisiana State University Experiment Station in Jeanerette, LA. His research in Louisiana was on the introduction of forage legumes and developing management practices to improve pasture productivity.

Dr. Shock then became Superintendent of the Malheur Experiment Station near Ontario, OR during 1984. His research over the past 34 years has spanned the breadth of applied and fundamental aspects of plant productivity in the Treasure Valley of southeastern Oregon and southwestern Idaho. His primary focus has been on agronomic aspects of potato, onion, poplar, sugar beet, alfalfa, and potential alternative crops. He developed irrigation systems to improve water-use efficiency, and to improve water quality by minimizing soil erosion. He has also devoted considerable research effort on developing efficient fertilization practices for crops. Dr. Shock has been a tremendously energetic and innovative scientist dedicated to the sustainable production practices throughout his region.

Recognition of his successful contributions can be exemplified by his prolific publication record and by the numbers of competitive grants that he has been awarded. In just the past two decades, Dr. Shock amassed nearly 10 million dollars in grants for research and education at the Malheur Experiment Station.

Throughout his long career, he has worked to solve agricultural problems with creative research approaches, which have always been based on the principle of having solutions that can be feasibly implemented by producers. Under his leadership, the staff at the Malheur Experiment Station have provided answers to many growers’ problems. Better varieties, better weed control strategies, and many other options have been found. These efforts have been successful due to enthusiastic grower and agricultural industry support.

Many of the aspects of his research directly involve the stewardship of land and water, through increasing the efficiency of irrigation or reducing the off-site effects of irrigation. His research has often found ways to increase production and improve quality while reducing water use and reducing negative off-site effects of water runoff.

For example, back in 1989-1991 the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) wanted to regulate growers’ options for irrigation and fertilization in Malheur County due to nitrate contamination of the groundwater. However, ODEQ allowed the community an opportunity to find its own solutions without regulation. Clint led research to find ways for growers to use nutrient and water inputs more efficiently, which increased productivity while decreasing fertilizer inputs. These solutions made economic sense to growers and were voluntarily adopted and kept ODEQ from imposing fertilization and irrigation regulations on growers.

This is also when Clint began pioneering the current methods of drip irrigation on onion that are now widely used across the Treasure Valley and beyond. Growers’ adoption of drip irrigation and more precise fertilization have caused groundwater nitrate levels to decline.

ODEQ also had concerns about groundwater contamination from residues of the herbicide Dacthal. With Clint’s leadership, the station found alternative herbicides to Dacthal that were more effective and less costly. Growers voluntarily adopted new weed control options, and as a result, Dacthal residues have declined precipitously in local groundwater.

Clint has developed ideal soil water tension criteria for onions, potatoes, and other specialty crops grown under furrow, sprinkler, and drip irrigation. He has promoted the use of soil moisture monitors so growers can more precisely apply irrigation, which helps to conserve water and reduces plant stress from overirrigation and underirrigation.

Recently, Clint led research for the onion industry to help address the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules. As initially proposed, these complex and cumbersome rules could have seriously disrupted onion production across the US. With little known about bacterial movement from irrigation water through the soil and potentially to onion bulbs, Clint had to develop some creative research approaches to determine if onions were at risk of contamination. Clint and his OSU colleagues have shown that our onions are safe and as a direct result, numerous FDA draft rules have been modified to be less onerous for growers. For this and all of his other work, the onion industry is extremely grateful to Clint.

Although Clint will be retiring soon, he remains professionally active on editorial boards and as consulting editor, reviewer, and member of regional working groups. He continues his international horticultural consulting, which includes work in Brazil, China, Paraguay, Peru, Senegal, Nigeria, and Venezuela. He also continues to take on new challenges, as most recently exemplified by his research with industrial hemp. As always, he has focused on learning how best to grow this new crop commercially in the Treasure Valley so growers may have another viable crop for their farms.

Clint is also very devoted to the community in and around Malheur County. He actively supports the work of the Malheur and Owyhee Watershed Councils and their efforts to correct environmental problems while promoting sustainable agricultural projects. He is a long time scout leader, having served as scoutmaster, cubmaster, and in other scouting roles for over 30 years. He has served many community organizations in the Treasure Valley. He was instrumental in starting the Owyhee 5th Grade Field Day, championed by the Owyhee Watershed Council.

His many friends, colleagues, and growers feel fortunate for all of the contributions Clint has made, and look forward to many more in the coming years. No recognition of Clint is complete without recognizing the importance of his family to all that he has done. Throughout his career, Clint’s wife Candace and their children, Byron, Cedric and Myrtle, have been both an inspiration and collaborators in Clint’s work.

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