Mary M. Peet grew up in Silver Spring, MD, and received a PhD in plant physiology (plant breeding minor) from Cornell University in 1975. An ASHS member since 1980, she had received her bachelor's degree in biology in 1969 from Hiram College in Ohio, and a master's degree in botany in 1972 from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Peet worked 5 years at Duke University with the eminent water relations researcher Paul Kramer before joining the North Carolina State University Horticultural Science Department in 1980. She has worked on tomato nutrition, physiological disorders, and carbon dioxide and heat stress effects. In 1990 she became interested in organic and sustainable agriculture, and received recognition for a 1996 book, Sustainable Practices for Vegetable Production in the South, as well as for related websites and videos. Other research programs included grafting and high tunnels for local and organic tomato production, and a collaboration to analyze heat stress resistance in tomatoes transformed to dampen cytosolic reactive oxygen species.
Two of Peet's PhD students and a MS student have received awards. Since 1990 she has had 63 grants funded, including collaborations with Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Plant Pathology, Entomology, and Plant Biology. She has extension responsibility for greenhouse vegetable production, received a State Friend of Extension Award, and has served on the NC Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Boards since the 1980s. She has taught courses in field and greenhouse vegetable production and been active in local and national distance education initiatives. She has visited greenhouses in 19 countries, given more than 100 professional presentations, including keynote addresses, has been on the editorial and scientific advisory boards of nine ISHS symposia, and published two books, eight book chapters, and more than 110 other articles. Her 63 journal publications in ASHS journals, Plant Physiology; Plant, Cell, and Environment; Journal of Experimental Botany; and Physiologia Plantarum have been cited more than 1000 times. She served on the ASHS Board of Directors, beginning in 2003, as Research Division Vice President. In 2009 she was named as ASHS Fellow.
In August 2009, Peet began work as National Program Leader at USDA/NIFA in Washington, DC, in Plant and Animal Systems, with responsibility for organic agriculture. She provides national leadership for state and federal activities relating to horticulture and organic agriculture; provides administrative oversight and national leadership for the Integrated Organic Program, which includes the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) and the Integrated Organic and Water Quality Program (IOWP); and serves as the contact person for federal agencies, states, industry, land-grant universities, and nongovernmental organizations in addressing issues relating to organic agriculture.