Retired NC State University Horticultural Science professor Dr. Walter A. Skroch was recently honored as a member of the Western North Carolina Agricultural Hall of Fame. Skroch, a pioneer in agriculture, was inducted May 29. WNC Communities held the 25th Annual Western North Carolina Agricultural Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Mountain Horticulture Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River.
This annual event recognizes stewards of the Western North Carolina agribusiness sector and honors the visionaries and leaders of the agriculture industry. At a time when western North Carolina is seeking new methods of sustainability, WNC Communities recognizes those who have made significant contributions to one of the state’s most important sources of revenue.
In his 30 years as professor of Horticultural Science in NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Skroch developed management programs that have saved millions of tons of soil, reduced vegetation management costs, reduced pesticide use, increased wildlife habitat and increased species biodiversity throughout North Carolina and beyond. In particular, his work in the Christmas tree industry in western North Carolina saved tons of soil from eroding, and the program established by Skroch is standard practice in the North Carolina industry today.
A native of Arcadia, Wis., Skroch received his bachelor’s degree from Wisconsin State University and his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Wisconsin. He joined the faculty at NC State in 1964 and served there until his retirement in 1994.
Skroch spent his years of research and extension work with herbicides and integrated management programs at NCSU. The unique and pioneering aspects of his work are the ideas he formulated in his early activities managing weeds in perennial crops such as ornamentals, orchards and Christmas trees. This work led to a new and radical (at the time) concept – that plants and weeds once thought to be harmful to tree production, might not be.
Asking the question, “What is a weed to a tree?” Skroch demonstrated that the widely held belief that the ground has to be completely bare for maximum crop production was simply not true. In fact, he showed that some crops, like apple trees, actually do better if some “weeds” are left in the field or orchard. Skroch worked out the details of the types of vegetation that worked best with specific commercial crops and how they could be properly managed using low doses of herbicides. His research has been incorporated into practical management practices that are used all over the country today.
During his career, Skroch received the Outstanding Extension Worker Award from NC State and the Extension Educator Award from the American Society of Horticulture Science. He has been president of the Weed Society of North Carolina and received its Distinguished Service Award.
Skroch has been editor, author and consultant on numerous state, regional and national publications on herbicides and weed control and is responsible for developing new vegetation management systems for nurseries, orchards and tree farms throughout western North Carolina. He served on the North Carolina Pesticide Technical Committee to help draft the N.C. Pesticide Law of 1972, which has become a model for the nation. In addition, he developed the original state and national core manuals for pesticide applicator certification. He served as an expert witness on assorted agricultural litigations in several states and has been an advisor and major professor to 19 master’s degree and Ph.D. students.
A fulltime resident of Ashe County since 1997, Skroch is an active contributing member of the Ashe community.
As one of the leaders recognized by WNC Communities, Skroch will be honored with a plaque on the WNC Agricultural Hall of Fame Wall located in the Mountain Horticulture Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River. – from WNC Communities Release