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Leading Pecan Expert Highlights NMSU Lecture Series

LAS CRUCES - The food guide pyramid, one of the most well known guidelines for healthy eating, has recently come under fire. Now a Texas-based pecan expert, who will be the featured speaker for an upcoming special New Mexico State University lecture series, says the nut is unfairly lumped together with saturated fats on the pyramid.

J. Benton Storey of Texas A&M University (10/30/2002) (Courtesy Photo from Texas A&M)

"Red meat and pecans aren't the same thing," says J. Benton Storey of Texas A&M University, who will present a free public seminar on 43 years of progress in pecan research as part of the Lowenstein Lecture Series for NMSU's agronomy and horticulture department on Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m. in the Gerald Thomas Hall auditorium. He will also conduct a second presentation on pecan health food studies for students and faculty on Nov. 15 at 3:30 p.m. in Room 200 of Gerald Thomas Hall.

"Pecans have the same oil as you find in olive oil, which isn't all that bad for you," Storey said. "In fact, it's good for you." As the pyramid, which was instituted in 1991, is reevaluated foods like pecans should be reconsidered because they are known to reduce circulatory inflammation, he said.

Recently, Storey has conducted two studies analyzing fatty acids in pecans. "The goal is to develop pecans with higher monounaturated fatty acid content, which will increase pecan shelf life and cut low-density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol in humans," he said.

During the past four decades, Storey's research has focused on pecans, pistachios and peaches. His research laboratories in College Station are also noted for their pioneering work on zinc nutrition of horticultural crops. His other research centers on pecan germination while still on the tree, new sources of pollen donors, soil aeration, water stress and early pecan harvest. He's also working on propagation and cultural practices to prevent pistachio freeze injury.

Storey received his bachelor's and master's degrees in horticulture from Texas A&M, and a doctorate in botanical science and plant physiology from the University of California at Los Angeles. He is currently a professor in Texas A&M's horticultural sciences department.

A certified professional horticulturist, Storey was honored earlier this year with a Superior Service Award from the National Pecan Shellers Association for his leadership, vision and outstanding contributions to the pecan industry.

NMSU's Lowenstein Lecture Series is made possible through a gift from the late Bonnie and Bernard Lowenstein of Albuquerque. The series promotes interest and better understanding of floriculture and recreational horticulture, along with other fields of plant science. In addition, NMSU has offered the Bonnie Lowenstein Memorial endowed scholarship for undergraduates since 1993.