I am a vegetable breeder / geneticist working on tomato and long-day onion. My areas of interest concern the genetic control of novel traits derived from wild species, the genetic control/physiological mechanisms underlying these novel traits and their use in vegetable improvement. This work leads to the development and release of germplasm or lines with the novel traits, such as resistance to insect pests and to diseases, as well as superior horticultural type.
My research projects concern the genetic control of novel traits derived from wild species. Primary research focuses on traits limiting cultivar quality and production, including disease and insect resistance, storability and maturity. My current research interests center on tomato and onion. Projects underway in tomato focus on 1. the genetic control and mechanisms for acylsugar-mediated multiple insect resistance in tomato, how this system can be modified to raise acylsugar level and/or alter acylsugar type to increase the systems efficiency, and how this system can be used to control insect-vectored virus that are a critical issue in tomato production 2. Combining genetic controls to the diseases late blight (caused by Phytophthora infestans), early blight (caused by Alternaria tomatophila), and Septoria leaf spot, which cause defolation and loss of yield and fruit quality in temperate tomato growing regions, and used combined genetic resistances and minimal low environmental impact control, to create a sustainable system of control of foliar fungal pathogens of tomato. Projects underway in onion include the production of milder higher BRIX, moderate storage onion adapted to the northeast to provide additional high value product for NYS onion growers 2. transfer of resistance to Botrytis leaf blight (BLB) to onion from the wild relative Allium roylei. 3. The pest resistance program is expanding to target the transfer of resistance to other disease. 4 In a collaborative project, we are also using the generation of doubled haploids to accelerate the breeding program, eliminate sub lethal genes, and produce fully homozygous lines of use both in hybrid production and as tools in molecular mapping of the onion genome. Doubled haploid lines produced by the program have been adapted by a international collaborative group of molecular biologists sequencing the onion genome, and creating a dense molecular map of onion.
Outreach and Extension Focus
Each year I make 4 different presentations to onion growers or grower groups, usually in January, February, March and July. Most of the trials and field plots grown for the onion program are grown on donated land from host growers. Due to these presentations, and interaction with host onion growers during each season, I have current association with the onion industry, and I respond to periodic requests or questions from onion growers. I also have met with organic grower groups to present information on new cultivars and traits of potential use. Each year I also make 2 different presentations to extension personnel during in service sessions, and 2 different presentations to seed company representatives at organized Field Days. I also interact with seed companies using new materials and techniques released from the program, to assist them in using the materials, and training company staff in new techniques. As a cooperator on an inter-university project on trichome secondary metabolites, I am assisting in outreach, providing basic researchers information regarding tomato cultivars, traits and production that helps refine their projects, and give guidance regarding how basic information generated by the project could be utilized for applied benefit
The extension and outreach aspect of my work are largely associated with my research in tomato and onion breeding. For the tomato program I interact with global seed companies and an international research center overseas, international tomato processing companies, tomato growers and processor groups in other states, and organic tomato growers in NYS. The onion program interacts frequently with NYS onion growers, as well as onion seed companies.
Although I have taught other courses, my major instruction focus has been for undergraduate students in the course PL BR 225:Plant Genetics. This is a introductory undergraduate genetics lecture and lab course, focused on plants, rather than bacterial and viral systems. I designed this course, and have taught it, with many revisions, for 19 years – with gaps for sabbatic leaves and for development of other courses for the department. This course is used by some CALS plant science majors to fulfill their genetics requirement of their program, and so is a service course for the college.
Awards and Honors
- 2011 grant recipient () Atlantic Seed Association
- inductee, Science Hall of Fame (2020) St John Fisher College, Rochester, NY
- Keynote speaker: 9th ISHS Symposium on Processing Tomato (2004) International Society for Horticultural Science
- Keynote speaker: IV International Symposium on Edible Alliaceae (2004) International Society for Horticultural Science
Presentations and Activities
- Development and Use of Cultivars with Resistance or Tolerances to Late Blight, Early Blight and Septoria Leaf Spot. 2013 Vegetable EXPO. January 2013. Syracuse, NY.