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Queens Anniversary Prizes 2015

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Dr Richard J. Colgan

Reader in Postharvest Physiology
BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD
Food and Markets Department
Natural Resources Institute


Dr Richard Colgan joined the Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich as a Postharvest Physiologist in January 2010. He was previously employed by East Malling Research where he worked for 15 years as a physiologist and pathologist within postharvest research group. Earlier in his career Richard spent time at the Scottish Agricultural Science Agency and as a visiting scientist at INIA-Spain. Richard’s research has centred on identifying mechanisms to extend the storage and shelf life of fresh produce. His research has spanned a number of disciplines from the identification of genes responsible to orchestrating biosynthesis and perception of the ripening hormone ethylene in fruit and developing molecular markers for the marker assisted selection of new apple varieties with improved texture and eating quality through to development of novel chemical inhibitors of the plant hormone ethylene. His work has followed through to more applied and practical areas of research where he has developed new storage protocols and assessed new chemical products for the horticultural industry.

More recently, his work has expanded into the control of dormancy, sprout growth and sugar accumulation in potato and was a PI on a Defra-Link funded project identifying markers for control of sprout growth in potato in collaboration with the James Hutton Institute (Dr Mark Taylor, Dr Glenn Bryan) and Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research (Dr Glyn Harper). This has been followed by a recent award with other NRI colleagues of a BBSRC-HAPI grant in collaboration with the James Hutton Institute, Imperial College London and Cranfield University investigating the control of dormancy in potato and onion.

Alongside colleague Dr Debbie Rees, Richard was integral in the development of the Produce Quality Centre a collaborative initiative between NRI and East Malling Research,

Research/Scholarly Interests

Richard has a number of research interests which centred on improving the storage quality of fresh produce. He has a particular interest in the control of ethylene biosynthesis and perception in a number of crops which underlie a number of research themes

His research involvement has ranged from down-regulation of ethylene genes in apple using antisense technology through to identification and development of allelic markers responsible for low ethylene production and delayed ripening in apple. Previously, Richard was involved in transcriptome analysis of genes responsible for ripening and stress responses in apple and for the development of allelic markers to aid marker assisted breeding programmes. He has also actively involved developing practical measures to control ripening in fruit using ethylene antagonists and ethylene removal technologies and has identified a number of novel ethylene antagonists during his research.

Dormancy and tuber quality
Richard belongs to research consortium(s), involving James Hutton Institute and Sutton Bridge Crop Research, identifying genes responsible for dormancy break and sprout vigour in potato and understanding factors impacting on tuber quality and sugar metabolism. He is also interested in the identification of novel sprout inhibitors and practical methods to maintain tuber quality.

Pre and post-harvest factors that impact on senescence of fruits and vegetables, including pre-harvest treatments: the role mineral nutrition, agrochemicals and climatic factors. His work has also touched on ways to minimise degradation of plant derived pharmaceuticals during production and harvesting.

Post-harvest disease control
Measures to reduce the incidence of post-harvest losses through surface sterilisation, biological control, pre-harvest fungicides, ethylene removal and physical treatments to reduce post-harvest rots.

Controlled Atmosphere Storage
Identification of optimum harvest maturity and controlled atmosphere regimes to extend the shelf-life of fruit and vegetables, including the use of dynamic controlled atmosphere storage.

Current and Previous Funded Research Projects

2013-2017 – BBSRC-HAPI Control of dormancy in potato and onion.

Identification of key signalling pathway’s linked to the break of dormancy that will be used to develop ‘SNP’ markers for selection of new potato and onion germplasm with extended storage life.

2009-2012- Defra Sustainable Link Project Identifying genetic markers in potato suitable for identifying ethylene sensitivity/insensitivity traits in processing potato lines

Transcriptome analysis of genes controlling sprout growth in potato using micro-array analysis of RNA isolated during the early stages of dormancy break and sprout elongation. Candidate genes were tested against QTL hotspots on a potato-linkage map to see if they co-segregated for areas on potato chromosome(s) with known control over dormancy break. Moreover, the project looked at the synergistic interaction of plant growth regulators in prolonging dormancy and or suppressing sprout growth and to the extent that alternative sprout growth suppressors affected the accumulation of reducing sugars in tubers.

2011- present Regulation of calcium in maintaining quality of fruit and vegetables.

A range of projects covering work funded by Horticultural Develop Company/ Potato Council/ PhD-Studentships/ HIEF. We are investigating the role of calcium in maintaining tissue integrity/cell signalling and reducing the incidence of internal tissue browning during storage of apples and vegetables. We are focussing on the role of calcium in controlling cellular necrosis in apple cortex cells known as ‘bitter pit’. In addition the role of calcium in orchestrating loading of photosynthetic solutes (sorbitol) into apple cortex cells is under study. Poor uptake of sorbitol, in apple has been linked to low calcium and often leads to the accumulation of sorbitol within the interstitial air spaces leaving fruit with a glassy appearance that leads to localised anoxia and necrosis. Linkages in calcium’s role in sugar uptake are under investigation in sweetening of potato during long-term storage.

2010- present. Development of Controlled Atmosphere (CA) storage protocols for fruit and vegetables.

Projects funded by HDC /Industry. Optimising the storage potential of new apple and pear varieties for extension of storage life. Reducing the incidence of post-harvest disease in stored brassicas.

Selected Publications

  • Colgan.R.J. and Fernandez. F. (2013) Extending the storage season of apples through selection of low ethylene breeding lines. Aspects of Applied Biology 119, 119-126
  • Cheema, M.U.A, D.Rees, R.J.Colgan, M.Taylor, A.Westby (2013) The effects of ethylene, 1-MCP and AVG on sprouting in sweetpotato roots. Postharvest Biology and Technology, 85:89-
  • Hassan, S., Colgan R.J., Paul, M.J., Drake, P., Atkinson, C.J., Sexton, A., van Dolleweerd, C.Keshavarz-Moore E.and Ma, J.K-C.(2012) Recombinant monoclonal antibody yield in transgenic tobacco plants is affected by the wounding response via an ethylene dependent mechanism. Transgenic Research 21(6), 1221-32.
  • Colgan R.J., Atkinson, C.J., Paul, M.J., Drake, P., Sexton, A., Santa-Cruz, S., James, D.J. and Ma, J.K-C. (2010). Optimisation of contained Nicotiana tabacum cultivation for the production of recombinant protein pharmaceuticals. Transgenic Research 19(2):241-56.
  • Richard Colgan, John Stow , Annalisa Marchese, Sladjana Nidzovic and Mark Else (2006). Storage quality of low ethylene producing apples (Malus pumila Mill.). Journal of Fruit and Ornamental Research, 14(2): 77-85.
  • Dandekar AM, Teo G, Defilippi BG, Uratsu SL, Passey AJ, Kader AA, Stow JR, Colgan RJ, James DJ. (2004). Effect of down-regulation of ethylene biosynthesis on fruit flavor complex in apple fruit. Transgenic Research 13 (4): 373-384
  • D.S. Johnson, R.J. Colgan (2003) Low ethylene controlled atmosphere induces adverse effects on the quality of ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ apples treated with aminoethoxyvinylglycine during fruit development. Postharvest Biology and Technology 27, 59-68.
  • James, D., Passey, A., Baker, S., Wilson, F., Stow, J., Colgan, R., Hiles, E., Massiah, A., Vaughan, S.P, Simpson, D., Sargent, D., Bulley, S., Hedden, P.,Labavitch, J. and Dandekar, A.M. (2003). Genetic modification to improve fruit quality: benefits for the grower, the consumer and the environment. Acta Horticulturae, 622: 97-104
  • Colgan R.J, Dover C.J, Johnson D.S and Pearson K. (1999) Delayed CA and Oxygen at 1 kPa or less control superficial scald without carbon dioxide injury on Bramley’s Seedling apples. Postharvest Biology and Technology 16, 223-231.
  • Colgan R.J and Johnson D.S (1998). The effects of post-harvest application of surface sterilising agents on the incidence of fungal rots in stored apples and pears. Journal of Horticultural Science. 73(3) 361-366.
  • Johnson D.S, Dover C.J, Colgan R.J. (1996). Effect of rate of establishment of CA conditions on the development of CO2-injury in Bramley's Seedling Apples. Acta Horticulturae.464, 351-356
  • Raposo. R, Colgan.R, Delcan.J and Melgarejo.P. (1995). Application of an automated quantitative method to determine fungicide resistance in Botrytis cinerea. Plant Disease. 79, 294-296.

Recent Conference Presentations

  • Colgan.R.J., Rees.D. and Thurston. K (2014) Prospects for modulating storage temperature and moisture loss in apple and pear storage.Presented at the Third International Conference “Effects of pre- and post-harvest factors on health promoting components and quality of horticultural commodities. Skierniewice, Poland 23rd – 25th March 2014.
  • Rees, D., Hipps, N., Colgan, R.J. and Thurston, K. (2014) Ethylene and Microbial hotspots in the UK fresh produce supply chain. Presented at the Third International Conference “Effects of pre- and post-harvest factors on health promoting components and quality of horticultural commodities. Skierniewice, Poland 23rd – 25th March 2014.
  • Colgan.R.J. and Fernandez. F. (2013) Extending the storage season of apples through selection of low ethylene breeding lines. Fruits and Roots: A Celebration and Forward Look: AAB conference-East Malling Research 3rd-5th November 2013
  • Johnson, D.S. and Colgan R.J. (2008). Triazole sprays applied during fruit development induce diffuse browning disorder in CA-stored Cox’s Orange Pippin apples. Plant Growth Regulators, Harvest Time and Commodity Quality, Bet Dagan, Israel, 26-27 May 2008.
  • Colgan R.J., Atkinson C.J., Paul, M.J., Santa Cruz, S., James D.J., Hamp K., Gutteridge C. and Ma J.K-C. (2008). Maximising production and improving uniformity of transgenic plants for the manufacture of an IgG monoclonal antibody. Molecular Farming-Plant Biologicals, EuroSciCon, Welwyn Garden City 28th January 2008.
  • Colgan, R.J., Nidzovic, S., Marchese, A. & Else, M.A. (2004). The mechanism for low ethylene production in apple (Malus pumila). AAB Centenary conference: Advances in applied biology: providing new opportunities for consumers and producers in the 21st century. St Catherine’s College, University of Oxford.
  • Johnson, D.S. and Colgan, R.J. (2003). Low Ethylene controlled atmosphere induces adverse effects on the quality of ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ apples treated with aminoethoxyvinylglycine during fruit development. CA conference- Rotterdam.
  • Colgan R.J. (2002) Strategies to control ethylene production in apple. Association of Applied Biologist- Post-harvest Biology workshop, Natural Resource Institute, Chatham, December 2002.
  • Johnson, D.S. and Colgan, R.J. (1997). Prospect for the control of fungal rotting in apples by modification of the storage environment. COST 914/915 Joint Workshop: Non conventional methods for control of post-harvest disease and microbiological spoilage. Bologna, Italy 9-11 October 1997. 181-189
  • Colgan, R.J., Dover, C.J. and Johnson, D.S. (1997). Control of superficial scald without chemical anti-oxidants. Proceedings of the British Crop Protection Council; Crop Protection and Food Quality, Meeting Customer Needs; Canterbury 17-19 September 1997 . 429-435.
  • Johnson D.S, Dover C.J, Colgan R.J. (1996). Effect of rate of establishment of CA conditions on the development of CO2-injury in Bramley's Seedling Apples. Postharvest 1996, Taupo, New Zealand Acta Horticulturae.464, 351-356
  • Colgan.R. (1996). Alternative strategies for controlling storage rots in Cox's Orange Pippin apples without the use of post-harvest fungicides. Brighton Crop Protection Conference, Pests and Disease. 3, 919-924.
  • Colgan.R (1996). Reducing the reliance on post-harvest fungicides to control storage rots of apples and pears. IV Workshop on Integrated Control of Pome fruit diseases. IOBC/WPRS Bulletin OILB/SROP 20(9), 69-76
  • Raposa.R, Colgan.R and Melgarejo.P (1992). The use of an automated assay to determine dose-response relationships between Botrytis cinerea and iprodione. VI International Congress of Plant Pathology, Montreal, Canada. 28thJuly- 6th August.

External Recognition

  • Member of the Association of Applied Biologists (AAB) 1994-2008.
  • A member of the AAB Post-harvest advisory group (2000-2008)

Contact Information

Dr Richard J. Colgan

Natural Resources Institute

University of Greenwich

Central Avenue, Chatham Maritime, Kent ME4 4TB, United Kingdom.

Tel: +44 (0)1634 883760

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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