( Courtesy IFG )

David Cain, founder of International Fruit Genetics, Bakersfield, Calif., and the table grape breeder of Cotton Candy, Funny Fingers and other unique varieties, has received the 2020 Wilder Medal from the American Pomological Society in recognition of his 42 years in fruit breeding.

Cain, the chief plant breeder at IFG, has developed or co-developed 66 cultivars of table grapes, 10 sweet cherries, nine plums, four apricots, four peaches and one nectarine cultivar. It’s the highest honor from the society, according to a news release. In the U.S., Cain’s work has resulted in more than 75 plant patents.

“His vision and impact have changed the table grape industry,” Andy Higgins, CEO of IFG, said in the release. “We are excited he has received such an esteemed and significant award for his work.”

Cain founded IFG in 2000, and his familiarity with public varieties of table grapes was beneficial for the company, according to the release. He chose germplasm from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Germplasm Repository in Davis, Calif., as the basis for his work.

IFG released Cain’s first table grape in 2009, resulting in patents for Sweet Surrender, Sweet Sunshine and Sweet Sensation. Other varieties credited to Cain include Candy Snaps, Sweet Globe and Candy Hearts. More than 60,000 acres of IFG table grapes have been planted globally.

Before founding IFG, he was at Sun World International, where he developed the Scarlotta, Midnight Beauty, Adora and Sable varieties, along with stone fruit varieties.

Earlier in his career, he was an associate professor at Clemson University and a research scientist with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, where he worked on seedless grape breeding, leading to innovations that have facilitated improved efficiency in breeding seedless varieties over four decades, according to the release.

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