Remembering alumnus Claude Bernier, distinguished plant scientist
Dr. Claude Bernier, retired U of M professor and plant pathologist, died March 13. He was 87. Bernier improved wheat production processes in Canada and around the world, and helped save many food crops from disease. He also mentored hundreds of students over his 30-year career at the University of Manitoba. In 2011, he received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the university.
Bernier inherited his love of plants from his father Raymond, an avid gardener who maintained a large vegetable garden and various fruit trees and shrubs at their St. Boniface home. Bernier earned a BA from Saint-Boniface College (now Université de Saint Boniface), followed by a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture (1957) a Master of Science degree (1961) from the University of Manitoba, and a PhD from the University of Minnesota. As a summer student, he worked with scientists to assess diseases in potato crops; later, he conducted vegetable testing and disease clinics.
Beginning in the 1970s, Bernier consulted for many developing countries, even spending a year in Cairo. He helped stabilize wheat production in Uruguay and spurred local authorities in Aleppo, Syria to establish an international centre for agricultural research in dry areas (ICARDA). Back home, his research helped bring tan spot (wheat disease) under control, preventing further crop losses in the 1980s. He did the same for lentils in 1990.
Bernier was active in community affairs: he was a former board member of Caisse populaire de Saint-Boniface, president of Saint-Boniface College’s Board of Governors, and member of U of M’s Senate.