Many of you may have had the pleasure and good fortune of attending one of Dr. Bernadine C. Strik’s excellent presentations at past Winter Dreams/Summer Gardens Events. A Professor in the Department of Horticulture for Oregon State University (OSU), she often graciously shared her extensive expertise as a berry specialist. Sadly, Bernadine Strik died of ovarian cancer on April 14, 2023, leaving behind her husband, Dr. Neil Bell, and their two daughters.
Born in Holland, Bernadine Strik grew up in Australia and then in Vancouver, BC, where her parents owned and operated a large retail nursery. Working at the nursery, she became enamored of horticulture. She entered the University of Victoria, where she earned a B.S. in botany with honors and completed her undergraduate thesis on rhododendron propagation.
Bernadine went on to earn a doctorate with distinction in horticulture at age 25 from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. Upon graduation, the new Dr. Strik accepted a position as assistant professor at OSU in 1987. Dr. Strik focused her research on commercial berry crop physiology and production systems. By 1992, she was Berry Research Leader for North Willamette Research and Extension Center, a 160-acre research farm south of Portland.
In 1990, Bernadine met her future husband. Dr. Neil Bell also was a horticulturalist and says that “Berries brought us together.” They were married in 1994 and Neil joined Bernadine at OSU, working in community horticulture for Extension until his retirement in 2022. They were avid travelers together, visiting other countries both for pleasure and to collect plants and share information. They at times were joined by their daughters to hike challenging routes.
In Dr. Strik’s 34 years at OSU, she made a significant impact on Oregon’s berry industry. In that time, blueberry acreage in Oregon grew from 1,200 to 15,000 acres, with large changes in production systems based on her research. Her landmark 14-year study on organic blueberry production – planting methods, fertilization, mulching, cultivar adaptation, and weed control – helped drive an increase in Oregon’s organic acreage from 2% in 2006 to 20% in 2020, as growers adopted Dr. Strik’s research-based production methods to increase profitability.
Dr. Strik’s career was studded with accolades. In 2007, she was honored by the receipt of the American Society for Horticultural Science Fellows Award. As she retired in 2021, she received the highest honor bestowed by the International Society for Horticultural Science for her industry-changing program on berries. This award is bestowed on scientists who have made a significant impact on horticulture internationally. She was a dynamic presenter and a prolific author of many publications that are referenced worldwide.
Dr. Bernadine Strik will long be remembered for the beneficial contributions she made to Oregon’s berry crop industry through her innovative research, teaching, and outreach at OSU Extension. She will be missed.