Stanton Shannon, researcher of corn, onions and squash, dies at 94

Stanton Shannon, who supported New York farmers through his research on sweet corn, onions and squash, died Jan. 6 in Riverside, California. He was 94.

A professor emeritus of vegetable crops in what is now the School of Integrative Plant Science, Shannon focused on problems in vegetable physiology and biochemistry. In particular, he developed new methods to perform rapid detection of curcurbitacins in squash. Curcurbitacins are highly toxic, bitter compounds that naturally occur in the family of plants that include cucumbers, pumpkins, melons, watermelons and squash. These bitter compounds protect wild plants against predators, but they are undesirable in commercially grown fruits and vegetables. Detecting these compounds early enabled plant breeders to select better-tasting varieties.

He also developed improved techniques for detecting carbohydrates in maturing sweet corn, and determined effects of triacontanol, a naturally occurring plant growth stimulant, on vegetable crops under New York’s growing conditions.

Throughout his career, Shannon worked closely with vegetable growers and processors in New York and California on the safety and logistics of various processing technologies.

Shannon was raised on a citrus farm southwest of Phoenix, where he developed interests in soil health, plant physiology and nutrition. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry and soils from the University of Arizona, then served two years in the U.S. Army. Part of his service was spent in the Chemical Corps, teaching soldiers chemical, biological and radiological defense, and part was spent as a topographical surveyor in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, including three months of duty in northwestern Alaska.

He earned his Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis, in 1961 and was hired as an assistant professor at Cornell, in what was then the Department of Seed and Vegetable Sciences. He retired in 1985.

Shannon is survived by his wife of 65 years, Muriel, two children and five grandchildren.

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