U of S researcher wins Award of Innovation for hybrid tomato seed technology

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - May 16, 2013 SASKATOON - U of S plant scientist and biology professor Dr. Vipen Sawhney has been awarded the 2013 Award of Innovation for developing a commercially viable male-sterile line of tomato, a breakthrough that promises to reduce the cost of hybrid seed production by at least 40 per cent for one of the world's most valuable crops.

Co-sponsored by Innovation Place and the ILO, the Award of Innovation honours U of S researchers who have brought new and commercially viable technology to the Industry Liaison Office for development into marketable products. The winner was announced at the SABEX "Celebrate Success!" gala in Saskatoon on May 9th.
Tomatoes are grown in nearly every part of the world and sold either fresh or as ingredients in an enormous range of products. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, tomatoes are second only to corn in value among vegetable crops.
Since tomato flowers contain both male and female parts, they can self-pollinate. This is a barrier to producing hybrid seed, where the flowers of one variety must be fertilized by pollen from another variety. The traditional approach for plant breeders is to physically remove the male parts of the flowers, an extremely labour-intensive process involving a steady hand and tweezers. The male-sterile system developed by Sawhney eliminates the need of this process thereby reducing the cost of seed production.
Sawhney's innovation, the 7B-1 tomato line, is the product of more than 30 years of research. The line is photoperiod-sensitive, which means it remains male-sterile during longer days in the field, where it can be easily fertilized by other varieties to produce 100 per cent hybrid seed. To produce more of the 7B-1 line, the plants are simply grown under a shorter photoperiod, which restores male fertility and allows the plants to reproduce as usual and maintain the male-sterile line. This line also offers superior tolerance to both low temperatures and salty soils.
The 7B-1 line has been field-proven in California, Florida, Chile, Italy, China, India and Holland. It has been licensed to four seed companies in Italy, India, and Holland. It has also been shared, through agreements, with agricultural universities in Mongolia, China and India.
The Award of Innovation is open to U of S employees and students. Selection criteria include innovation novelty and potential commercial impact. The selection committee includes representatives from Innovation Place and the U of S.
Innovation Place is one of North America's most successful university-related technology parks. For more information on Innovation Place, visit http://www.innovationplace.com.
The ILO works with inventors to help commercialize innovations developed at the U of S. For more information on the ILO, visit www.usask.ca/ilo
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For more information on the Award of Innovation, contact:
Glen Schuler
Managing Director
Industry Liaison Office (ILO)
(306) 966-4584
Austin Beggs
Vice President Corporate Relations
Innovation Place
(306) 933-7464
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