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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


OARDC Researcher Receives Tomato Award

August 5, 2002

FREMONT, Ohio — David Francis’s tomatoes are redder, more nutritious and highly resistant to diseases. Now, they are also award-winners. A scientist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) in Wooster, Francis is the recipient of the 2002 Tomato Achievement Award, an honor conferred by the Mid-America Food Processors Association as a way of recognizing outstanding contributions to the development of the tomato industry. The award ceremony took place Aug. 1, during the Vegetable Crops Field Day at OARDC’s Fremont branch. OARDC is the research arm of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. "I’m surprised and truly honored," Francis said. "Considering the great work done by past recipients of this award, I hope it has been given to me for potential and not for accomplishments." Jim Hudson, executive director of the Mid-America Food Processors Association, highlighted Francis’s efforts toward the development of new tomato varieties that will greatly benefit the processing industry in the Mid-West and Mid-Atlantic states. Francis, who is also a professor of Horticulture and Crop Science, has been searching for tomato breeds that offer more resistance to diseases and yield a high-quality product in a humid environment, such as that of the Great Lakes region. OARDC’s breeding program has already made important contributions to the tomato industry. Two breeding lines (Ohio 9816 and Ohio 9834) tolerant to race T1 of the harmful bacterial spot have recently been released. Likewise, Francis has noticed improvements in yield and fruit size, firmness and field storage, and color uniformity. Since color is a defining attribute of quality for fresh and processed tomatoes, one of Francis’s goals is to obtain genotypes that consistently produce fruit with a red, dark and saturated color. According to Francis, color disorders (such as yellow shoulder) are the top nemesis of tomatoes intended for whole-peel and diced products, affecting as much as 65 percent of the crop. Deep-red tomatoes are not only more appealing and profitable: they are healthier as well. The pigments that make tomato red are pro-vitamin A and lycopene, a compound that has been found to fight cancer. Francis holds a Ph.D. from the University of California at Davis (1991), where he also worked as a postdoctoral research associate before joining OARDC in 1995. "My biggest satisfaction," Francis told farmers who attended the field day, "is working with an industry that consists of family-owned businesses, many of which have been around for three generations." (Caption: David Francis, left, receives the 2002 Tomato Achievement Award from Jim Hudson, executive director of the Mid-America Food Processors Association.)

Mauricio Espinoza
David Francis