Knowledge for a sustainable world

BSc, PhD, MI Hort, FI Hort, FSB
Professor Christopher Atkinson
Emeritus Professor of Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change

Emeritus Professors

Natural Resources Institute, Faculty of Engineering & Science

+44 (0)1634 88 3199

Professor Christopher Atkinson joined the University of Greenwich from East Malling Research in late 2012. Previously he worked for Unilever Research Ltd, Welwyn, and for the Agriculture Food Research Council at Rothamsted Research Station, in Harpenden (1971–76) as assistant (ASO) to the analyst. After obtaining advanced City & Guilds qualifications in analytical chemistry at Hatfield Polytechnic (now the University of Hertfordshire), he read for a degree in applied biology at London University (1976–79), followed by a PhD at UNCW Bangor (1982) with Professor J.F. Farrar in the department of J.L. Harper FRS. Professor Atkinson has held postdoctoral research positions in the Department of Forestry, University of Wales (1982–84) with M.P. Denne; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia, USA (1984–87) with W.E. Winner; was a visiting scholar at Stanford University, California, USA (1984–87) working with H.A. Mooney; worked in the Department of Biological Sciences, Lancaster University, UK (1987–90) and, with a NERC Research Fellowship (1990–91), worked with T.A. Mansfield FRS and W.J. Davies CBE. He moved to Horticulture Research International (HRI), East Malling as a Senior Scientific Officer in Crop Physiology (1992), working with H.G. Jones. Professor Atkinson was promoted to Principle Research Scientist in the Perennial Quality and Biotechnology, East Malling (1997) and became an Executive Member of EMR's Science Management Team (2004–12) and Head of Science (2006–11) and then Deputy Chief Executive and Senior Programme Leader, resource use and sustainable production (2011–12) working with P.J. Gregory (CEO).

Professor Atkinson also held positions as:

  • Executive Director of East Malling Limited (2009–10)
  • Executive Director of Plant Vaccines Limited (2009–11)
  • Executive Director of Malling Limited (2010–12).

Currently, he is Emeritus Professor of Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change, Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich. to present).

Professor Atkinson's research interests focus on understanding the impacts of environmental stress on the growth and development of crops, with particular expertise in perennial woody crops, such as apples and pears. His work includes studies of the influence of water on fruit growth and quality, and the impacts of chilling on flowering and cropping, and developing strategies to optimise production through understanding the processes which control fruit set and retention. The drought stress tolerance mechanisms of different crops, particularly those linked to the root behaviour of woody crops, have been extensively investigated.

Recent work is directed at the health benefits of fruit consumption, particularly with respect to agronomic ways to enhance bioactive secondary metabolites, such as antioxidants. Research also includes non-food crops, i.e. perennial biomass crops, enhancing artemisinin production (an antimalarial) in A. annua, pharmaceutical protein production (e.g. cyanovirin) in GM tobacco and biochar sequestration impacts on agriculture. This research provides the foundation of his vision for developing ways to intensify food production using sustainable approaches which facilitate crops and growing systems which cope with climate change stress, particularly drought.

He has also devoted time to promoting the understanding of science issues within the food production industry and with the general public.

  • Member, British Ecological Society (1997 to present)
  • Member, International Society of Horticultural Science (1992 to present)
  • Member, Board of Advisors to the New Phytologist (1995–98)
  • Associate editor, Journal of Horticultural Science and Biotechnology (1995–2004).
  • Member, Board of Reviewers of Journal of Experimental Botany (1990 to present)
  • Member, Society of Experimental Biology (1980 to present)
  • Editor, Plant Growth Regulation (2003–04)
  • Editor in Chief, Plant Growth Regulation (2004–09)
  • Visiting Member, Academic staff at Reading University (2011–16)
  • Member, Institute of Horticulture (2011–12)
  • Fellow, Society of Biology (2011 to present)
  • Fellow, Institute of Horticulture (2012 to present)
  • Reviewer for the Biotechnological and Biological Research Council (2008 to present)
  • Appointed to the BBSRC UK Pool of Experts (2011 to present).
  • Appointed to the UK BBSRC Horticulture and Potato Initiative – Steering Group and reviewer (2012 to present).
  • Member of stakeholder group for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Science and Technology in Agriculture, UK (2009 to present).
  • Reviewer for Acta Horticulturae-International Society of Horticultural Science, Annals of Botany, Biologicals, Chemical Industry and Chemical Engineering Quarterly, Environmental Science and Technology, Experimental Agriculture, Experimental and Environmental Biology, Functional Plant Biology, International Journal of Molecular Science, Journal of Experimental Botany, Journal of Horticultural Science and Biotechnology, Malaria Journal, Planta, Plant Growth Regulation, Plant and Soil, Royal Agricultural Society of England, Tree Physiology, and other international plant journals.

International research proposal reviewer for the following:

  • USDA–National Research Initiative, Plant Response to the Environment
  • University Grants Committee, Hong Kong
  • Invited reviewer, BBSRC Industrial Partnership Awards, 2009
  • The International Foundation for Science, 2010
  • BiodivERsA2011-83 programme, 2011
  • Swiss National Science Foundation, 2011
  • USDA, NIFA programme, 2012
  • Member of the International Atomic Energy Authority, Fruits Working Group.
  • External PhD examiner at Lancaster University, University of Reading, University of Dundee and University of Bristol.
  • Judge at the National Fruit Show (1996 to present).
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