Loy W. Shreve

Native Timbre
Tribute to Loy W. Shreve
Larry A. Stein

Well it is again time to bid farewell to another one of Extension's finest . . . . . it seems that the vast forests of heaven were in need of thinning and the good Lord said our own Dr. Shreve was the man for the job. Loy William Shreve was born on 8 October 1926 and was called in for his next assignment on 11 June 2002. Dr. Shreve was born and grew up in Smoke Hole, West Virginia, a place he truly loved and cherished and in fact where he took his final trip before he died. Just this past spring he came in to my office looking for sweet cherry nursery information so that he could replace cherry trees that he and his grandfather had cared for and nurtured years ago in West Virginia.

Dr. Shreve was a "forester" by training having received his BS degree from West Virginia University in 1951. Following graduation he worked as a forester for 10 years in the Kentucky Division of Forestry. In 1964 Shreve entered graduate school at Kansas State University where he earned his Master and Doctorate degrees in 1967 and 1972 respectively. While earning his degrees, Shreve worked as Extension Forester - fire control and then tree improvement for Kansas State. It was during the tree improvement work that he became a premiere plant propagator. He brought this propagation talent and interest to his position as Extension Horticulturist at the TAMU Center in Uvalde in 1976. The major crops which Shreve worked on were pecans, walnuts and apples although he dabbled with persimmons, pears, avocados, pinyon pines, pineapple guava and several other things.

Texas Extension has done a remarkable job in teaching folks how to propagate trees and no doubt Dr. Shreve played a huge role in this educational process in southwest Texas. He conducted no less than 20 such programs a year from 1977 until his retirement in 1991. Shreve never complained, but one of the things which used to upset him was the fact that he had to attend faculty conference at the end of April in College Station. This was right in the middle of the "prime" plant propagation period and this meant that he would get to educate fewer clients as to the proper methods for plant propagation success. He not only used the bark and inlay bark grafts, but also the flap graft. The flap graft is best known as the banana or 4 flap graft, but Shreve also used a 3 flap graft . . . . whatever would work the best for the situation at hand. Dr. Shreve personally developed and perfected the greenwood graft. This graft is most often used on walnuts but works on pecans as well. His detailed procedure is outlined at: http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/propagation/greenwood/index.html

Loy was probably the best one-on-one educator that Extension ever had. He could get right down to their level, be doctors or lawyers or a mere ordinary citizen off the street. He could put situations in lay terms so that all could comprehend. He was truly gifted because he saw everyone as "equals", never as opportunities. One of Loy's strongest supporters was none other than the late Sterling C. Evans (TAMU Library name sake). Shreve worked with Mr. Evans as he would any other producers.

Mr. Evans provided a travel grant for Shreve to travel to China to search for pest resistant fruit and nut varieties for potential use in Texas. It so happened that Loy had a bit of money left when he returned which he promptly returned to Mr. Evans. Mr. Evans remarked that Loy was the first person to ever return money after such a financed trip.

Dr. Shreve was truly a man of impeccable character and honesty. This integrity and honesty served Shreve well in his ambassadorship of Texas A&M to the rest of the world in his quest for outstanding walnut and apple varieties. He made several trips abroad, but never at the expense of taxpayers. Usually he was a guest of the host nation.

No doubt Shreve's greatest contribution to pecans was the introduction of pecan timber marketing to Texas. Prior to Shreve coming to Texas, most pecan wood was merely piled and burned, usually at great expense to the owner. Unfortunately this expense and work kept many folks from thinning their native groves or orchards. Dr. Shreve was able to show that indeed some of these native trees could be valuable as lumber. Shreve conducted intense workshops on pecan timber marketing complete with on site demonstrations of a portable saw mill which led to the introduction of several such "saws" to Texas. Though little Texas native pecan is cut by major lumber producers, there are several portable sawmills which operate in Texas because of Shreve's efforts. He also showed them how to build solar dry kilns in order to properly dry the lumber to insure a quality product.

Dr. Shreve's meetings were conducted in conjunction with the STAR (Southwest Texas Agriculture Resources) group which Shreve helped organize. For years there were meetings conducted for both apple and pecan growers. Upon Shreve's retirement the STAR group presented Loy with a plaque which reads, "Given in appreciation to Dr. Loy Shreve for his dedicated service to Agriculture and to the STAR Horticulture program. We especially recognize him for the new innovative program he initiated.

Rooting was another propagation method which Shreve championed. At Kansas State, Dr. Shreve was able to root very difficult to root species such as Juglans. In his position as Extension Horticulturist at Uvalde, Shreve strived to root native rootstocks so as to avoid high pH, lime induced chlorosis as well as other problems such as root rot. Dr. Shreve perfected the used of the "poor man's greenhouse," i.e., milk cartons filled with a well drained potting soil and then covered with a plastic bag. He would simply dip the cuttings in the 7000 ppm IBA, put the cuttings in the media in the carton and then seal it with a plastic bag and place them in a shady place and "essentially" forget about them. Two to three months later he would have new plants. No doubt Loy's great patience paid big dividends in rooting these plants. Most of us would want to check the progress every few days, but not Loy; he was content to sit back and wait. In later years, it was said that Shreve could "root" a fence post if you gave him enough time. He became known as "Super Shreve" because of his great rooting ability.

No doubt Shreve's eternal optimism played a huge role in his success.

Lastly, a crop which Loy was fond of and had great hopes for was apples. He introduced and helped start an industry in southwest Texas where before there had been none. In fact, the Texas Apple Growers, named Loy as "the Father of the Texas Apply Industry when he retired from Extension in 1991."

Needless to say, Shreve's accomplishments were many and beneficial to the citizens of Texas. And even though his absence has left a void in our lives, especially his wife Josephine and family, we will forever remember that quiet unassuming man, who often said "I don't know why it wouldn't work!" Naturally Shreve received numerous awards over his career including recognition from the International Plant Propagators Society in 1977, a merit award from the Northern Nut Growers Association, faithful and meritorious service award to the people of Texas from the County Judges and Commissioners of Texas, and the highest award Extension bestows on employees, the Superior Service Award in 1991. Thanks for your great work Dr. Shreve; even though you left your heart in West Virginia, you touched many a life in Texas.