The agency last week awarded a number of its Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists with technology transfer honors at its annual awards ceremony. "The award acknowledges the scientists' outstanding efforts to move their research out of the laboratory and into the marketplace," said ARS administrator Edward Knipling. The highest honors were received by horticulturist David Ramming and plant physiologist James Mattheis for developing technologies that have already been used to market better quality fruits. Ramming, based at the ARS San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center near Parlier, California, pioneered the use of a laboratory technique known as embryo rescue to nurture the vulnerable, undersized embryos of experimental seedless grapes into strong, new plants, said the ARS. "Dr Ramming's expertise has resulted in popular new varieties of delicious red, white and black seedless grapes for fresh-market sale. Many of the grapes ripen at times of the year when other, US-grown seedless grapes aren't available," Knipling said. Mattheis, who directs investigations at the ARS Tree Fruit Research Laboratory at Wenatchee, Washington, was awarded for his work on preserving apples. "Dr Mattheis spearheaded studies that have reduced the use of fungicides previously needed to protect stored apples from rots and other problems. At the same time, Dr Mattheis' research has enabled growers to better protect the flavor and texture of stored apples - including those that, with typical storage treatments, could lose their appeal all too soon," said Knipling. Tuesday's ceremony also honoured scientists for developing new, cost-saving procedures - now being used in Florida and Louisiana - to simplify processing of sugar cane, and for breeding new, high-yielding sugarcane plants that are becoming popular with Louisiana growers. Others were awarded for creating a "farmer-friendly" approach to enrich the calcium content, improve flavor and prolong the shelf life of melons such as cantaloupe and honeydew. And the agency's Seafood Safety Team was awarded for the development of a test that public health laboratory staffers can use to help ensure that shellfish such as oysters and clams are free of harmful viruses.