( File photo )

Texas A&M University AgriLife Research scientist Leonard Pike, who developed the iconic Texas 1015 Supersweet onion, has died.

Pike, known for serving Texas 1015 onion rings to industry trade show attendees, died Jan. 11. He was 78.

Pike was instrumental in establishing the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center at the university in 1992, and was its first director.

Although the 1015 onion might be the best-known of Pike’s successes, he also developed the Aggie maroon Beta Sweet carrot, pickling cucumbers that could be mechanically harvested, and a number of other vegetables.

Bhimu Patil, who succeeded Pike as director of the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center in 2005, called him a mentor, friend, advisor, colleague and a guiding force in his career.

“His beyond-the-box thinking was unparalleled and inspired all his students to secure better jobs, and indeed several of them are leaders around the globe,” Patil said in a Texas A&M AgriLife news release.

Pike retired in 2006 as a horticulture professor and vegetable breeder.

"Dr. Pike's achievements are distinctive among the Texas vegetable industry and worldwide," Patrick Stover, vice chancellor and dean of agriculture and life sciences at Texas A&M and director of AgriLife Research, said in the release. "His pioneering work in onions, carrots and a host of other vegetables benefitted not only Texas' vegetable industry, but are enjoyed by consumers everywhere. We are deeply saddened by his passing, but his legendary mark on vegetable research continues."

The Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center takes the novel approach to increasing consumption by focusing on achieving health and nutrition benefits.

The Texas 1015, named for Oct. 15, the planting date, has been a boon to onion growers, was named the state’s official vegetable in 1997, according to the release.

A memorial service is being planned.

 
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