In Memoriam: Jim Beutel, Retired Pomologist

By Dateline staff Dave Jones and Cody Kitaura, January 25, 2016

James A. “Jim” Beutel, a UC Davis pomologist who battled a devastating virus in a well-established fruit and helped in introducing two new fruits to California, died Dec. 28 at the age of 88 at a Vacaville, California hospital.

Jim Beutel, UC Davis
Jim Beutel, UC Davis

Beutel was a lecturer, researcher and UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the old Department of Pomology (now part of the Department of Plant Sciences) for nearly three decades, starting in 1963.

He wrote the book, so to speak, on kiwifruit and Asian pears when they took root in California. His reports for UC Cooperative Extension’s Small Farm Program are still online, telling how to grow and harvest the fruits, and discussing the economics of each as a crop.

Colleagues, including Jim Doyle and Ted DeJong, recalled Beutel’s involvement, as well, in addressing the pear decline virus that hit California in 1959. He also worked with the cling peach industry, and played a role in research on dwarf peach and nectarine trees.

He gave frequent talks and interviews — for example, like the time he was quoted by a Woodland newspaper columnist about the best time to pick a pear. “We pick our Bartletts when they’re still so hard you could almost break your teeth on them,” he said.

“Pears are different from almost any fresh fruit you can name, except kiwifruit, because they are never good when allowed to ripen on the tree,” he said. “They’re grainy, almost gritty — and mushy!”

He lived in retirement in Winters, California, where he and his wife of 20 years, Kalayada, operated K&J Orchards. The couple sold their produce around Northern California and in Nevada, at farmers markets and directly to restaurants, including the famed French Laundry in Yountville.

Beutel was born in Santa Ana, California, and was a Navy veteran of World War II and the Korean War.

He attended UC Berkeley before finishing his Bachelor of Science degree at UCLA. He held a master’s from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Beutel took a sabbatical from UC Davis to work on his Ph.D. at Rutgers, researching drip irrigation for minimal water use and maximum fruit production.

He is survived by his wife, Kalayada (nee Tapganjana); daughters Aomboon Deasy, Onanong Montoya, Cecilie Starin, Lissa Stephen and Ellen Beutel; sister, Ruth Beutel, and five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

1 Comment

  1. As a new graduate student in 1975 in Pomology, I asked if I could ride along with Jim as he did field work on a peach nitrogen project in Stanislaus County with Farm Advisor Norman Ross and UCCE Specialist Rollie Meyer. I was able to help apply the N treatments…my first field experience in an orchard. This led to later summer work, a new graduate student project, and a 37 year career as a Farm Advisor with UC Cooperative Extension in several counties. My thanks and appreciation to Jim for sharing his insights about orchard crops and for my start on a successful career path. My best wishes to his family and friends for their loss.

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