Dr. Peter Petracek Named Department of Plant Sciences Distinguished Alumni Speaker

Scott Senseman and Peter Petracek, UT Institute of Agriculture
Dr. Peter Petracek (right), of the Valent Biosciences Corporation, was named the Distinguished Alumni Speaker for 2017 for the  UT Institute of Agriculture Department of Plant Sciences. He's shown with Dr. Scott Senseman, head of the Department of Plant Sciences. Photo courtesy UTIA. Download image​.

Dr. Peter Petracek, of the Valent Biosciences Corporation, was named the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture’s Department of Plant Sciences Distinguished Alumni Speaker for 2017. Petracek is an internationally renowned scientist in the field of plant physiology. During Petracek’s graduate studies at UTIA, he worked with Dr. Carl Sams on the effect of boron on the whole plant photosynthesis of broccoli for his M.S. degree.

Petracek was born in Southwestern Minnesota and raised on his parent's farm. He received his B.S. from the University of Minnesota-Duluth in Chemistry and Biology in 1983. After receiving his M.S. from the University of Tennessee in 1986, he received his Ph.D. from Michigan State University in Horticulture in 1991. In his Ph.D. work, Petracek published the fundamental paper on the effects of hydration on cuticular rheology, designed and developed a diffusion cell for measuring cuticular penetration from a droplet/deposit, and established the hysteretic nature of cuticular polymer sorption/desorption of a solute. 

He later became a postharvest physiologist at the Florida Department of Citrus in Lake Alfred, Florida. During his time working with the citrus industry, he defined the morphology, determined the cause, and discovered the cure for postharvest pitting of citrus. This research led to the development and use of improved gas permeable coatings and aggressive cold storage regimes in the worldwide citrus packing industry. In the 1990s, he became internationally known for his postharvest citrus fruit research.  His work has helped improve citrus fruit quality through better coatings and better handling. 

In 1998, Petracek was employed by Abbott Laboratories in North Chicago, Illinois, to research and develop plant growth regulator products. At Abbott, and later at Valent BioSciences Corporation, he helped lead a team that established and registered commercial uses for abscisic acid (ABA). Discoveries that he and his teams made have led to the standard use of ABA for red grape coloration worldwide. He also has helped lay the course for the commercialization of the ethylene precursor 1-aminocyclopropane carboxylic acid. To date, Petracek has 43 issued US patents and has authored or co-authored 34 refereed publications and 2 book chapters. He is the son of Doris Petracek and the late Don Petracek of Vesta, Minnesota.

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Dr. Scott Senseman, Head, Department of Plant Sciences, 865-974-8033, ssensema@utk.edu