Kenneth Tobutt, who has spent over three decades at East Malling Research, won the annual Fruit Culture Award at last week's National Fruit Show dinner.
Output from his breeding programme included ornamentals such as the elderberry ‘Black Lace', which was a great hit at the 2003 RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Other highly acclaimed fruits included several varieties of columnar apple and the large-fruited cherry variety "Penny".
William Sibley, past master of the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers, praised his role in "developing the science on which the future of the fruit industry depends".
Tobutt, who studied natural science at Oxford and joined East Malling in 1976, has pioneered new genetic maps, molecular markers and DNA fingerprinting techniques.
He has solved a range of "hitherto intractable" scientific problems such as identity of cultivars, evolutionary relationships and genetic incompatibility of pollinators.