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In Memory

Dr. John J. Mortvedt


The soil science community lost a long-time member and a SSSA past president when Dr. John Jacob Mortvedt joined his Lord and Savior on March 13, in Fort Collins, after suffering a stroke.

John was born on January 25, 1932, to Ernest and Clara Mortvedt in Dell Rapids, SD, where he spent his childhood on their farm. He earned his B.S. degree in agronomy from South Dakota State University in 1953 and married Marlene nee Fodness in Rapid City, South Dakota, on January 23, 1955.

After serving as an aviator with the U.S. Army for three years and farming for one year, John earned the M.S. degree in soil science from SDSU in 1959 and the Ph.D. degree in soil chemistry from the University of Wisconsin in 1962.

John’s professional career began with the Tennessee Valley Authority in Muscle Shoals, AL, as a soil chemist in the Agricultural Research Department and he remained there until 1987, when was transferred to Fort Collins as a regional manager of the Rocky Mountain area in the TVA Field Programs Department. He was awarded the TVA Bronze Honor Award for his outstanding service. He retired on July 9, 1993, and then served as an Extension Specialist at Colorado State University through 1996 and was named Professor Emeritus.

Dr. Mortvedt's major research programs were concerned with factors affecting soil reactions and plant availability of micronutrients and micronutrient fertilizers. He evaluated numerous commercial fertilizers as well as potential products. Results of his research were published in 65 technical papers, 11 book chapters, and more than 35 nontechnical papers in trade journals and symposia proceedings. His studies of reactions of heavy metals in soils have been used by the EPA and other agencies, and he is credited as inventor on two patents. In the nomination materials for a Society award he received at the end of his professional career one of his colleagues wrote, “even today he remains the foremost authority on micronutrient fertilizer technology and the recommended methods of application". At Colorado State University, John revised or supervised the revision of the fertilizer suggestions for all major crops in Colorado.

John visited more than 30 countries, many as a consultant and lecturer, and was a frequent speaker around the United States at soil fertility and fertilizer meetings. He is the senior author of the books Fertilizer Technology and Application and Farm Chemicals Handbook which are widely used in agriculture. He also was also co-editor of the internationally popular reference and textbook Micronutrients in Agriculture, and the Iron Research Work Group he helped found in 1974 produced symposium series around the world.

Dr. Mortvedt was a 50+ year member of SSSA and ASA and was named Fellow of both the SSSA and ASA in 1979. The AAAS awarded him Fellowship in 1989. John was elected SSSA President in 1989. The SSSA honored him with its Professional Service Award in 1991 and the Distinguished Service Award in 1996. John served on the SSSA Board of Directors from 1981-1990, Executive Committee from 1987-1990, and was the SSSA editor-in-chief from 1982-1987. Colleagues around the nation write that John's "has been an exemplary career of dedicated service that would be difficult, if not impossible, to match" and that he "serves well as a role model for young scientists."

John served as president of the Exchange Club of Florence, Alabama, sang in church choirs and served in congregational leadership for many years, and was president of the Florence Toastmasters. He loved golfing and football, handyman and outdoor projects, visiting with friends, and traveling around the world. God and his family were John's greatest joys. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather, and friend to many. His humble, sincere, and friendly demeanor will be deeply missed.

He is survived by his wife Marlene, daughters Sheryl (David) Jarratt, Lori (Gary) Klopf, and Julie (Chris) Stride, and grandchildren: Daniel (Andrea), Michael, and Andrew Jarratt; Marcia and Brian Klopf; Jack, Britta, and Brooke Stride. He also is survived by his sisters Lucille (Phil) Ramstad and Audrey (Duane) Mortensen, brother Robert (Becky), sisters Marilyn Terwilliger and Jeanne (Ken) Steinharter, brother-in-law Elmer Petersen, and many nieces and nephews. John was preceded in death by his parents and his sister Carole Petersen.

Memorial services were held at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Fort Collins and at the Lutheran Church of Dell Rapids, SD.

He was buried at Stordahl Cemetery near Dell Rapids, SD, on  March 17. Memorials may be made to Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church ( or to Alzheimer's Association ( Marlene Mortvedt’s address is: 6420 Compton Rd.; Fort Collins, CO 80525

Contact: Gary Peterson
Phone: 970-491-5555