A distinguished researcher, scholar and pioneer in plant pathology, Dr. Claude Bernier is recognized for his role in improving wheat production processes at home and around the world.
Dr. Bernier was born in Saint-Boniface in 1931 and obtained his master's degree from the University of Manitoba. He earned his Ph.D. in plant pathology from the University of Minnesota and in 1965 he took the position of assistant professor in the department of plant science at the University of Manitoba.
Beginning in the 1970's, Bernier contributed as a consultant to many programs in developing countries, particularly in the north of Africa, and was consultant for the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). He assessed the disease situation in food legumes and the research capabilities of national programs in Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan. This led to the establishment of the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas ( ICARDA) at Aleppo, Syria. He also directed a major project on wheat pathology and tillage in Uruguay; his job was to stabilize wheat production in the entire country.
Throughout his career, Dr. Bernier contributed to his community as a member of the Board of Governors for Saint-Boniface College from 1966-75, serving as president of the board from 1972-74. He was a board member for Caisse populaire de Saint-Boniface, and member of the Conseil de promotion de la cooperation. He was a member of the University Senate from 1974-76 and he also lent his expertise to Agriculture Canada, the Department of Natural Resources, Red River Community College, and the Canadian Phytopathological Society, of which he was a member of throughout his career, serving as vice-president from 1977-78.
Manitoba has always had one of the largest concentrations of plant pathologists in Canada. Today, more than a third of the plant pathologists in Manitoba were either graduate students of Dr. Bernier, had him on their advisory committees, or took his graduate course. This is in addition to the hundreds of undergraduate students who were exposed to plants through Dr. Bernier's teaching.
Dr. Bernier's knowledge has been invaluable to so many societies, including our own. In the 1980's a wheat disease called Tan Spot caused serious yield losses in western Canada and elsewhere. It was Dr. Bernier's research program that provided the critical understanding of this disease that brought it under control. He did the same for lentils in 1990 when a fungus threatened them. For a city boy exposed to plants through his dad's garden, he has made an impact in the agricultural world, working to save our food stuffs from disease. His impact on the 30 graduate students he trained is immeasurable but the wake of his career is evident in the 50 refereed journal articles, numerous book chapters, and participation in hundreds of national and international conferences.