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BTI Tomato and Fruit Biology Group Awarded USDA Secretary of Agriculture Honor

Honor Awards

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stands with U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Tomato Genomics and Fruit Biology Team in the Jefferson Auditorium at USDA in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014. The Tomato Genomics and Fruit Biology Team received their award for development of tomato genome sequencing and its pioneering use for improving fruit ripening, quality, shelf life, and associated food security in tomato and other crops. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

A research team at BTI went to Washington DC on November 5 to receive the 2014 U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Honor Award in the category of ‘Increasing global food security’.

Nominated as the ‘Tomato and Fruit Biology Group’ the team consists of Jim Giovannoni (lead), Zhangjun Fei, Lukas Mueller, Joyce Van Eck and Julia Vrebalov. Former BTI employees Corny Barry and Silin Zhong are also included, as are former BTI Board member Steve Tanksley and collaborators at Cornell, Colorado State University, and the University of Oklahoma.

The Secretary’s Honor Award is the most prestigious USDA award presented by the Secretary of Agriculture, recognizing noteworthy accomplishments that significantly contribute to the advancement of USDA’s strategic goals, mission objectives, and overall management excellence.

The team of BTI-led researchers was selected for their “leadership of and contributions toward the international tomato genome sequencing effort, in addition to their pioneering discoveries regarding the genetic basis of fruit ripening. Both activities provide insight and tools for selection of longer shelf-life and higher quality fruit crops that will promote food sustainability and human nutrition the world over.”

J. Vrebalov, J. Van Eck, L. Mueller, J. Giovannoni

Julia Vrebalov, Joyce Van Eck, Lukas Mueller, and James Giovannoni (not pictured is Zhangjun Fei)

Acting BTI president Greg Martin says,” This is truly a great honor and fantastic recognition of the international tomato genomics effort and related fruit-ripening research spearheaded by BTI, USDA and Cornell faculty for many years.”

 Lead researcher Jim Giovannoni adds,””This project exemplifies the fact that we are very fortunate in the BTI, USDA and Cornell communities to work in an environment with numerous gifted collaborators who bring great synergy to our projects, and leadership that clears the path to focus on scientific inquiry”

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