Dr. John Wesley Schmidt

John Wesley Schmidt, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Agronomy at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, died 15 July, 1997. Born 13 March, 1917, at Moundridge, KS, Schmidt was reared on a wheat farm. Ancestors of Schmidt were Mennonites who introduced Turkey hard red winter wheat from Russia. Turkey wheat rapidly replaced spring wheat as the type grown in the central Great Plains. His college degrees were a B.A. in biology, 1947, from Tabor College, Hillsboro, KS; an M.S. in agronomy, 1949, from Kansas State University; and a Ph.D. in agronomy, 1952, from the University of Nebraska.

After working as a member of the agronomy staff at KSU for 3 years, Schmidt was hired in 1954 as an associate agronomist at UN-L with primary responsibilities in wheat breeding and to work coöperatively with Dr. Virgil Johnson, the USDA wheat breeder stationed in Lincoln, NE. Dr. Schmidt achieved exceptional success in applying imaginative and innovative genetic approaches to cultivar development in wheat, oats, and barley. During his 31-year tenure at the University of Nebraska, he developed and released to farmers 28 hard red winter wheat cultivars with high yield potential and stability from breeding for resistance to diseases and environmental stresses; three spring oat varieties; and three winter barley varieties. Nebraska-developed germplasm and cultivars are prominent parental materials in most hard red winter wheat cultivars now grown in the Great Plains. Dr. Schmidt's use of germplasm from different regions in the U.S. and other countries provided the heterogeneity that, when combined with early-generation selection and testing, produced widely adapted cultivars with early release dates, broad adaptation, and stability in the variable climate of the Great Plains. As a promoter of team research, he sought the coöperation and counsel of colleagues in improving protein quantity and the quality of wheat and bread baking characteristics by obtaining basic physiological, genetic, and cytogenetic information about these wheat characters. Genetic studies by Dr. Schmidt dealt with yield components, grain protein content, and the multiple-spikelet effect. Cytogenetic studies on the chromosomal location of genes for bunt resistance and bread baking quality complemented his wheat breeding activities.

Dr. Schmidt was a pioneer in research on hybrid wheat. The group he led at Nebraska was the first to report that genes for male fertility restoration from T. timopheevi induced cytoplasmic male sterility in wheat. Germplasm from the Schmidt-led program is being used in many countries to increase productivity and nutritional value. He helped establish the International Winter Wheat Performance Nursery program, which has provided information on adaptation, and protein and lysine content to more than 40 coöperating nations. He assisted with international winter wheat conferences in the former U.S.S.R., Turkey, Yugoslavia, Brazil, Korea, Mexico, and others. His impact on wheat improvement has been worldwide.

Dr. Schmidt developed a highly successful course on the fundamentals of plant breeding, which he taught from 1958 to 1978. He was an advisor to 16 M.S. and eight Ph.D.students, 11 from foreign countries. He directed the research of four foreign trainees. Through his career, Dr. Schmidt received more than 20 significant honors and awards, including Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy (1966), the Crop Science Award from the Crop Science Society of America (1975, with V.A. Johnson), and the USDA Superior Service Award (1986), and an honorary doctoral degree from Kansas StateUniversity. Dr. Schmidt was widely known and appreciated across Nebraska. He had a strong family orientation. He was active in the community, schools, and his church. John married Olene Lucile Hall on 23 June, 1943. He is survived by his wife, three sons, one daughter, and seven grandchildren. One daughter is deceased.