R. Merton Love

loveAn internationally-honored range scientist whose ideas fundamentally challenged the tenets of classical rangeland ecology, Love devoted his career to improving the productivity of California rangeland. His forage resource development program was directed towards securing grasses, legumes, forbs, and shrubs adapted for use as intensive dryland pasture; more extensively managed pasture; browse for domestic and wild animals; improved habitat for game; soil binders for watersheds, beaches, parks, and wildlands; and less fire-hazardous groundcover. To achieve these goals, he screened thousands of native and exotic plants, many of which he collected himself, and released those best adapted for planting.

In this way, he introduced Rose Clover (from Turkey), now widely used as a grazing plant in the state, and helped establish Hardinggrass (native Mediterranean), Orchardgrass (Israel), Smilo, and other perennials on the range. His earlier research on the cytogenetics of cereals and range grasses also helped lead to the development, in cooperation with Canadian plant breeders, of a rust-resistant bread wheat.

Perhaps Love’s greatest contribution, however, was his demonstration of the applicability of agronomic principles to rangeland improvement, in contrast to the “climax” approach of the classical rangeland ecologists. The value of his research was further enhanced by his insight into its practical application, and he was very successful in getting farmers, ranchers, extension personnel, and government officials to adopt his recommended practices. As author or co-author of 150 publications and consultant to the Ford Foundation, FAO, USAID, and other organizations in 15 countries on 4 continents, Love’s contributions to the development of forage resources and the conversion of comparatively unproductive brushlands to the production of food and fiber are significant and far-reaching.

The history of civilization is the history of agriculture since man’s ability to grow more food than his immediate needs has made possible all other fields. – RM Love, 1963