Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Pat Holloway named to Alaska Innovators Hall of Fame

Pat Holloway with her peonies in the Georgeson Botanical Garden at UAF.
Photo by Cassie Galasso

Emeritus horticulture Professor Pat Holloway will be inducted today into the Alaska Innovators Hall of Fame in Juneau.

Holloway is being honored for being the first to recognize the commercial opportunities of the peony industry in Alaska and for her work developing the Georgeson Botanical Garden.

According to its website, the Alaska State Committee on Research created the hall of fame in 2014 to “celebrate and honor outstanding individuals who put Alaska on the map as leaders in innovation and to contribute to Alaska’s growing culture of innovation.”

Pat Holloway
UAF photo by Todd Paris
Holloway received a letter signed by committee co-chairs Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott and Larry Hinzman, the vice chancellor for research at UAF. The letter states, “Your demonstrated innovation has had a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of the people of Alaska.”

She is one of four honorees in 2018. The others include UAF Professor Kelly Drew, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry who discovered receptors that regulate the onset of hibernation and is using that knowledge to pursue a medical solution for human victims of stroke, cardiac arrest and spinal-cord injury; Eric Swanson, the co-inventor of optical coherence tomography, an imaging technique that captures micrometer resolution; and a traditional Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian wood halibut hook with an innovative design.

Holloway is pleased to receive the honor and will attend the induction ceremony at 4:15 p.m. in Centennial Hall. The ceremony is part of the Alaska Innovation Summit hosted by the Juneau Economic Development Council, which she will attend.

Holloways says she will use the opportunity to promote the Alaska Peony Growers Association and the SNRE resource management degrees. She will bring promotional materials for both.

“I’m just going to hawk my wares,” she said.

Holloway’s peony variety trials began in 2001, after she learned that peonies bloomed in Alaska in July, at a time they did not bloom elsewhere  — and that international buyers were interested. In addition to conducting 15 years of variety trials, she provided growers information on what varieties grew best and how to manage pests. She also brought up specialists to advise peony growers and provide research.

Only two past hall of fame inductees were honored for agricultural innovations, and Holloway is pleased to be recognized in that area, but she feels that the peony growers themselves are the innovators because they deal directly with issues related to growing peonies in the northern climate.

In 2016, growers shipped more than 200,000 stems to local, state and international markets, including the U.S., Canada, Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam and Singapore. The number of peonies planted was expected to increase from 200,000 plants in 2016 to 250,000 in 2017. Many plants are not producing yet.

“It’s really heartening to see what people are doing,” Holloway said.

Holloway retired from the university in 2014 but remains involved with the Alaska Peony Growers Association and with peony growers.

“I get lots of emails and I answer all of them,” she said. She also advises the association on research and grant-writing efforts. After retiring, she collaborated with Washington State University researchers on identifying the different types of botryitis, a gray mold that that is the No. 1 disease that affects cut flowers. She said researchers have now identified 10 species in Alaska that afflict peonies in the field and post harvest.

Holloway wants to continue the research to develop control measures to prevent botrytis in flower boxes and in the field. She is also working with the Division of Agriculture to identify barriers to export markets, and she continues to survey research on cut flowers and posts good articles that could be helpful to peony growers on her HortAlaska Peonies blog.

The University of Alaska established the Alaska State Committee for Research in 2004 to promote research and development in the state. For more information, see its website.

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