In Memoriam: Gene Albrigo
Editor’s Note: Earlier this year, UF/IFAS lost one of its most accomplished faculty members. Below is a remembrance written by Jim Syvertsen, Emeritus Professor of Plant Physiology, University of Florida/IFAS and published in the June 2020 issue of Chronica Horticulturae.
In memoriam L. Gene Albrigo (1940-2020)
Dr. L. Gene Albrigo, Professor Emeritus of the University of Florida/IFAS CREC, Lake Alfred, Florida, passed away on February 8, 2020, after a short illness. He is survived by his wife, Clydene, of 60 years (Daytona, FL), his son Tom Albrigo (Arizona), daughter Ruaun Malmberg (Georgia), 10 grandchildren, 7 great grandchildren and many friends and colleagues around the world. His work greatly benefited the worldwide citrus industry as demonstrated by his many highly successful students, and his strong ties with research colleagues and friends around the world.
Gene was born in Southern California and grew up on a peach farm. His father, Leo, was from Italy and managed the farm, while Gene’s mother, Alma, managed the packing house. Gene harvested and trucked peaches to the Los Angeles wholesale market through high school. From 1960 to 1968, Gene worked on deciduous tree crops research and undergraduate instruction in fruit crops at the University of California, Davis. He earned his PhD in 1968, under Dr. Norman Childers at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.
Over the past 51 years, Gene developed a widely recognized career in citrus horticulture at the UF/ IFAS CREC in Lake Alfred, Florida. He was a pioneer in developing citrus teaching and research programs in citrus production and postharvest at CREC. It is no exaggeration to say that Gene Albrigo’s students form the backbone of the citrus production and processing industries in Florida. Gene led the development of an MS Degree program in Citriculture and developed courses on the Regulation of Vegetative and Reproductive Growth Citrus Fresh Fruit Technology – Postharvest. A highlight of his teaching accomplishments was that he developed the audio-video delivery of classes within the UF College of Agriculture.
Many international and Florida citrus industry people have benefited from one or more of his courses and he has graduate students in influential positions in Florida and in many parts of the world. Gene was widely traveled in South America, Cuba, Europe, and Asia – wherever citrus is grown. He had cooperative projects in many of these countries. Gene was a living library of world citriculture. Gene organized nine international symposia mostly with the International Society of Citriculture (ISC). He was active in the ASHS, organized the 1989 ASHS Annual Meeting and was elected ASHS Fellow in 1998. He was President of the ISC from 1996-2000, organized the 2000 ISC Congress in Orlando, and became an ISC Fellow in 2008. He was also active in the ISHS and Citrus Section Chair from 2005- 2010. Gene was the primary organizer of the InterAmerican Citrus Network under the aegis of FAO United Nations. He was also an active member of the Florida State Horticultural Society (FSHS) for over 50 years. In 2012, he was awarded Honorary Membership in the FSHS, recognizing his special meritorious service to the Society and the advancement of horticulture in Florida. This is the highest honor FSHS bestows upon its members.
Gene was initially hired at CREC in 1968 to work on preharvest conditions affecting postharvest fruit quality and handling. He published field studies on stress related problems and spray chemical induced necrosis of the peel and fruit injuries in the packing house. This led to work on fruit cuticle development and many landmark publications on fruit wax development, wind scar and peel phytotoxicity. Gene generated many research ideas about solutions to citrus problems leading to his collaboration with most of the entomologists, pathologists, postharvest physiologists and other horticulturists at CREC. He was an influential researcher in all aspects of Florida citrus. One of Gene’s special research interests was the effect of climate on flowering and reproductive growth of citrus. His early studies on temperature and drought effects on flowering and fruit development led to later work emphasizing environmental control of flowering. He developed a computer program for Florida growers that predicts the level and date of flowering. Gene’s flowering advisory bulletins based on his ‘Citrus Flowering Monitor’ were closely followed by many Florida production managers and were published weekly until a month before he passed away.
Dr. Albrigo was inducted into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame in 2018 (https://floridacitrushalloffame.com/ inductees/dr-l-gene-albrigo/; View video). Gene published over 130 articles and co-authored several book chapters. Along with Dr. Fred S. Davies, he published the book entitled “Citrus” (CAB International 1994, revised in 2019). This book is used as a citrus resource throughout the world. Although officially “retired” from UF in 2010, Gene continued his research program by working at CREC three days per week by commuting from his home in Daytona Beach and staying in central Florida until December 2019. He planned to retire next year at 80.
It’s difficult to sum up a man who dedicated 51 years to research, but Dr. L. Gene Albrigo’s meaningful contributions to the worldwide citrus industry will have an enormous impact on generations to come. No one else has had as great an influence on the citrus industry as Gene Albrigo.