Dr. L. Gene Albrigo (1940)
Leo Gene Albrigo was born on August 24, 1940 in Palmdale, California and grew up at Mountain Brook Ranch, a peach farm in Valyermo, California with three brothers and a sister. His father, Leo, was from Italy and managed the farm while Gene’s mother, Alma, managed the packinghouse. Gene attended Antelope Valley High School in Lancaster, where he was the High School Salutatorian in 1958, and received the FFA State Star Farmer award for California and a Bank of America Scholarship to the University of California, Davis. He harvested and trucked peaches to the Los Angeles wholesale market throughout high school, managing the fruit stand for ten years while also working in the summer for Del Monte Farms for two years. In 1959, he married his high school sweetheart, Clydene. Together they have three children, ten grandchildren and seven great grandchildren – not to mention the cats Clydene breeds to show!
From 1960 to 1968, Gene worked on deciduous tree crops research and undergraduate instruction in fruit crops at UC, Davis – earning the UC Davis Pomology Senior Scholar award in 1962. At Rutgers, he earned his PhD in 1968 under the guidance of Dr. Norman Childers – a giant in horticulture field.
Gene moved to Lake Alfred in 1968 to work at CREC as Assistant Professor of Horticulture. Initially hired to work on preharvest factors affecting postharvest quality, Gene tirelessly pursued problems facing the citrus industry and worked to develop solutions for grower-related problems. He formed strong partnerships with industry members and worked in the field and laboratory to ensure that the discoveries made were applicable, yet relevant, to the citrus industry.
His research findings were many. Most notably, DISC
This decision model help citrus growers pinpoint flowering time based on chilling hours and crop load which is still in use today.
And Gene’s weekly flowering advisory bulletins based on the ‘Citrus Flowering Monitor’ are published online and help the industry understand the factors leading to the size of each new crop.
If you are in Citrus in Florida, the U.S. or worldwide, you know Gene Albrigo! Sometimes called Mr. Citrus or Mr. IFAS – he’s always been willing to travel to wherever citrus is grown to gain insights about worldwide citrus issues and solve problems.
Gene has organized nine international symposia on several subjects, organized the 1989 American Society for Horticultural Science Annual Meeting and the 2000 International Society of Citriculture (ISC) Congress, both in Orlando. He assisted in the organization of other International Congresses of ISC and was the primary organizer of the InterAmerican Citrus Network under the aegis of FAO United Nations.
In the mid-1980s Gene Albrigo led the CREC faculty in developing a program that provided graduate level courses for several disciplines that emphasized citrus and could provide additional education to graduate students and industry clients, eventually resulting in the creation of a MS Degree in citriculture.
Adding to his teaching accomplishments, he developed the audio-video delivery of classes within the College of Agriculture, which is now the standard for IFAS-wide Distance Education delivery of classes, meetings and conferences.
But perhaps his biggest teaching accomplishment is that so many of his graduate students are now in influential positions advancing citrus throughout the world.
Most researchers are only as good as their published work, and Gene has been prolific – with 130 published works and co-authoring several book chapters. He and Fred S. Davies also published the book, ‘Citrus,’ which covers all aspects of citrus production and is the standard in teaching citriculture classes today.
Although officially “retired” in 2010, Gene continued teaching as an Emeritus faculty for an additional year so that his program maintained its continuity.
During Gene’s career, he has done work through grants from NASA, the USDA, the CRDF and the Florida Citrus Production Research Marketing Order.
He continues his grant-funded research program today by working at CREC three days per week, commuting from his home in Daytona Beach and staying in Polk County every week.
Gene has been an active member in many horticultural-related organizations, including the American Society for Horticultural Science, where he was elected ASHS Fellow in 1998. He was the President of the International Society of Citriculture from 1996-2000, as well Chair of the ISC Citrus Section for five years and named an ISC Fellow in 2008. He has been a member of the Florida State Horticultural Society for over 46 years and is currently the Chair of the FSHS Sponsorship committee, garnering about $10,000 in donations per year over the last nine years to support FSHS annual meetings and student and grower awards. This has had a great ongoing impact on FSHS and the quality of its annual meetings and awards. In 2012, Gene was awarded their highest honor: Honorary Membership in the FSHS in recognition of his special meritorious service to the Society and the advancement of horticulture in Florida.
Not often thought about, but of huge importance, Gene has also contributed to the development of citrus researchers during his career.
It’s hard to sum up a man who has dedicated almost 50 years of research, but Dr. L. Gene Albrigo’s meaningful contributions to the Florida citrus industry and his dedication to citrus research, teaching and extension, has had an enormous impact that will affect and impact generations to come.