The CRC and rice industry was saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Carl Johnson last week. It’s safe to say, the California rice industry would not be what it is today were it not for Dr. Johnson who devoted his entire professional career to developing improved rice cultivars for the industry.Carl earned his bachelor’s degree in agronomy from Kansas State University, his master’s degree in agronomy from North Dakota State, and went on to receive his Ph.D. in agronomy and plant genetics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He came to work at the Rice Experiment Station (RES) for the California Cooperative Rice Research Foundation (CCRRF) in 1974 and retired in 2008.
During his tenure RES released 38 rice varieties to California growers. Of the 14 Calrose type medium-grain varieties, his primary responsibility, several have been particularly successful. Industry standard M-202 was released in 1985, and M-205 and M-206, which combine high yield potential and improved milling, and M-208, with resistance to the race of rice blast disease found in California, mark additional accomplishments for Dr. Johnson.
Carl played a major role in the release of 10 premium-quality medium grains, short grains, and waxy varieties and was a contributor to 10 long-grain releases from RES, as well as several germplasm releases.
He was instrumental in obtaining Plant Variety Protection for CCRRF varieties and lead inventor for multiple utility patents on rice cultivars. Some 14 Calrose medium grain varieties were released during Carl’s leadership in the medium grain project at RES, in addition to his contribution to an additional 15 releases in 7 other market types.
Dr. Johnson was a member of many honorary societies and has received well-deserved recognition for his professional accomplishments, including for Distinguished Service in Agriculture from Kansas State University, the Genetics and Plant Breeding Award for Industry from the Crop Science Society of America, the California Rice Industry Award in 2004, and the Distinguished Service Award from the Rice Technical Working Group in 2008.
“For all of us who knew Dr. Carl Johnson he was a big man in stature, personality, heart, and dedication to the California rice industry,” said Dr. Kent McKenzie, the recently retired Rice Breeder and Director of the RES who worked alongside Johnson for years. “Contributions he made to the California rice variety improvement program to yield and grain quality over his long career were even bigger and will not be forgotten.”
Carl is survived by his wife of 54 years, Faye, and daughters Cathy and Brenda. A memorial service is being planned for June, and his family is organizing a memorial to donate to causes Carl was passionate about, including the Faith Lutheran Church in Chico, California, Lutheran World Relief, advocacy for young women hunters, and any cause that promotes female plant geneticists and scientists.