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USDA Plant Geneticist Honored by Research Agency / February 7, 2001 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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USDA Plant Geneticist Honored by Research Agency

By Linda McGraw
February 7, 2001

MADISON, Wis., Feb. 7—Philipp W. Simon, a research plant geneticist with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service here, has been named an “Area Senior Research Scientist of the Year” by the agency for improving the nutritional value of carrots.

“Dr. Simon’s work provides a significant contribution to world health by increasing high carotene in carrots and selecting for better agronomic traits leading to the ability to grow carrots in developing countries, where 250 million children in the world suffer from vitamin A deficiency,” said ARS Administrator Floyd P. Horn.

Simon is internationally known for his research on the genetics and improvement of carrot, onion, garlic, and cucumber. His research improved carrot flavor for the baby or cut and peel carrot market, which accounts for about 30 percent of the current U.S. fresh carrot market.

He has also improved breeding methods for garlic, having developed the first true seed production system for garlic in the United States and transferred this technology to the garlic industry. Global garlic production exceeds 3 million tons with a U.S. value of $50 million to growers.

In 1999, Simon organized and participated in a scientific germplasm collection expedition with another researcher to five European and Middle Eastern countries. High carotene carrot germplasm released by Simon has stimulated interest in developing new carrot production as a source of extractable carotenoids for food supplements. Simon identified several important carrot quality genes and 100 plus molecular markers to create a low-density carrot linkage map. This map establishes the foundation for selecting simple and complex genetic traits and for investigating the use of marker-assisted selection in practical breeding programs.

Simon was the winner for the agency’s Midwest Area, which includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. He is the research leader for the Vegetable Crops Research Unit and is associated with the Horticulture Department at the University of Wisconsin here.

Simon and other ARS researchers were recognized in a ceremony today at the agency’s Henry A. Wallace Beltsville (Md.) Agricultural Research Center. Each senior research scientist will receive a plaque, a cash award of $3,000, and $15,000 research funding.

A Wisconsin native, Simon received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Carroll College in Waukesha, a master’s and Ph.D. degrees in genetics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He joined ARS in 1978 and became a research leader in 1984.

Germplasm evaluation trials for potatoes, cucumber, carrot, garlic, and onion have been expanded, resulting in four to six technology transfer meetings each year. These events are attended by several hundred vegetable growers and seed industry representatives. Under Simon’s direction, the Vegetable Crops Research Unit hosts international carrot meetings and conferences that have broadened the unit’s international reputation.

Simon has previously won a USDA certificate of merit for superior performance and has been a three-time winner of a certificate of merit for outstanding performance.

Scientific contact: Philipp W. Simon, ARS Vegetable Crops Research Unit, Madison, Wis., phone (608) 264-1248, fax (608) 262-4743, email psimon@facstaff.wisc.edu.

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