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PASSINGS / Robert K. Soost

Expert on citrus plants

March 21, 2009|Times Staff and Wire Reports

Robert K. Soost, 88, an internationally known expert on citrus breeding and a longtime professor of botany and plant sciences at UC Riverside, died of a heart attack March 8 at Petaluma Valley Hospital in Petaluma, Calif., according to the university.

Soost spent his entire 37-year academic career at UC Riverside, where he worked with James Cameron to develop important citrus varieties, including the Oroblanco and Melo Gold grapefruits, which were patented by the university in 1981 and 1986, respectively, and the Pixie and Gold Nugget mandarins.

Soost was born in Sacramento on Nov. 13, 1920. After graduating from UC Berkeley in 1942, he served in the Army Signal Corps during World War II.

In 1949, he earned a doctorate in plant genetics at UC Davis. That same year he joined the staff of what was then the Citrus Experiment Station in Riverside as a junior geneticist. In 1961, seven years after the station was turned into a full university, Soost was named to a teaching post. He attained the rank of full professor three years later. In 1968, he was appointed chairman of the department of botany and plant sciences, a post he held for the next seven years.

After retiring in 1986, he and his wife, Jean, relocated to the Northern California community of Inverness.

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