Monthly Archives: February 2013

Dr. Karen Koch Named AAAS Fellow

Congratulations to Dr. Karen Koch, as she was elected as “Fellow” of the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) and received this award at the national meetings in February, 2013, Boston, MA.

UF Hort Sci Professor Karen Koch is recognized with this distinct honor.

Fellows are AAAS members “whose efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications are scientifically or socially distinguished.”  K. E. Koch was elected, “For pioneering research in sugar metabolism that led to a highly influential ‘feast and famine’ framework for understanding sugar signaling in plants.”

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Tomato Flavor in the Spotlight

UF Horticultural Sciences professor Dr. Harry Klee and his team of researchers are making tremendous headway in understanding why tomatoes taste the way they do.  More appropriately, they are understanding why tomatoes don’t taste the way we wish they did!

Recent results are being presented this week at the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science annual symposium in Boston, MA.

Flavors and aromas are produced by a complex cloud of volatile organic componds that interface with sensors equipped to detect them.  Together this mix of hundreds of compounds, in conjunction with sugars, acids and other “taste” activators, provides a stimulation to the brain that defines the sensory experience.  In other words, the chemicals present in tiny amounts in fruits activate receptors in the nose and throat that provide the brain with flavor and aroma information.

Plant breeders have sought high yields, great shelf life and disease resistance.  Many of these gains have come at the expense of flavor. Now that scientists like Klee have a handle on how flavors are produced, it is now possible to define breeding targets to introduce key metabolites back into commercial tomatoes.

Dr. Linda Bartoshuk from the UF School of Dentistry has studied how flavors and aromas are sensed and what triggers a consumer’s “liking”.  Together with Klee’s groundbreaking work, it is possible to narrow and prioritize which chemicals are most important and which ones should be re-introduced to tomato first.

This research leads to a better understanding of the flavor compounds produced by tomatoes and why we like them.  The work promises to improve fresh tomatoes, but also processed tomato products.

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Breeding for Flavors in Florida Strawberries

University of Florida strawberry cultivars possess many important qualiies.  They are firm for good shipping, they are large, red and disease resistant.  But in the breeding for productive plants and attractive fruits, flavor was not a priority. That is changing now…

Dr. Vance Whitaker and visiting scienist Dr. Amelia Gaston (visiting from Bordeaux France) examine a strawberry field new Plant City, FL

Today the trend is changing and Dr. Vance Whitaker and Horticultural Sciences graduate student Alan Chambers are working to add back flavor.

In the lab, the diploid strawberry (Fragaria vesca) is used to identify genes and understand how they contribute to flavor and aroma.  This information is then used to inform breeding decisions based on the presence or absence of specific genes.

The goal is to use traditional breeding to speed production of the high quality cultivars the UF breeding program is known for– only with improved flavors.

The whole story is can be read on TechNews Daily.

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The Field as a Classroom

A recent write up in CALS Connection described Dr. Saba Rathinasabapathi’s HOS1014 course, emphasizing student learning through a hands-on experience.

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