Knowledge for a sustainable world

BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD

Richard studied for an MSc in Crop Protection at the Institute of Arable Crops- Long Ashton/ University of Bristol, before starting a short-term assignment at INIA in Spain researching the control of post-harvest diseases in protected crops. Richard moved to the Scottish Agricultural Science Agency in 1993, before relocating to East-Malling Research (HRI-East Malling) in 1994 joining the post-harvest team as a storage physiologist and pathologist working with the UK fruit industry to reduce losses of stored apples and pears.

He studied the control of ethylene biosynthesis and identified genes orchestrating ripening in apple for his PhD based at HRI-East Malling and characterised a number of novel inhibitors of ethylene biosynthesis. An extension to this work resulted in developing a number of genetic markers for use in marker assisted selection of new apple varieties with improved texture and eating quality. Richard joined NRI in 2010 working with colleagues to set up the Produce Quality Centre a collaboration between NRI and NIAB-EMR. More recently he has concentrated on more applied approaches to reducing losses and wastage in the supply chain funded by AHDB/WRAP. Reducing disease incidence in stored cabbage was one notable success through the use of the biological control agent SerenadeTM to reduce the spread of Botrytis cinerea. Richard’s interest in ethylene biology led to a Defra-funded SA-Link project to increase the use of ethylene as a sprout suppressant in potatoes with collaborators from James Hutton and Sutton Bridge Crop Storage with a follow-on involvement in a BBSRC-HAPI project understanding mechanisms controlling dormancy in potato and onion. NRI’s involvement in phenotyping dormancy and sprouting helped collaborators at JH to identify QTL’s associated with dormancy break in diploid and tetraploid potato lines. More recently Richard has been working alongside colleagues to develop real-time gas sensing technology for fresh produce subject to prolonged storage: SafePod technology (SCS Ltd) allows for real-time analysis of respiration behaviour of fruit allowing produced to be stored under low-oxygen storage regimes and in another Innovate UK project he has been working with Collaborators (University of Manchester) on isolating volatile signatures of diseased apple for training novel sensing detection technology as a means of real-time monitoring of disease development in stored apples.

Richard works closely with the UK- fresh produce industry to develop solutions to current problems a recent example is the development of a new Innovate UK project to design novel in-field cooling rigs to cool soft-fruit immediately after harvest allowing greater flexibility in cool-chain management.

  • Control of fruit ripening and ethylene biology
  • Reduction in nutritional-related disorders in fresh produce
  • Disease detection and reduction
  • Minimising water loss and maintenance of produce quality in the supply chain
  • Lecture on Post-harvest Biology Technology module (MSc in FSQM)
  • Plant Science and Molecular Biology aspects of the MBiol


  • 2019-2022 ICSF WAVE CoolBerry (R.Colgan/D.Rees-NRI, J.Dye JD Cooling, R.Harnden BerryGardens, P.Wilson Scorpion)
  • 2018-2019 ISCF WAVE Agri-tech low cost sensors (M.Turner-UoM, R.Colgan-NRI, Saville-NIAB-EMR, N.Dartnell- Cambridge Display Technology)
  • 2015-2018 SafePod: New technology for intelligent control of fresh produce storage (D.Rees & R.Colgan NRI)


  • 2013-2017 Control of dormancy in onion and potato (G Bryan (JHI), M.Taylor (JHI), Turnbull (IC) LTerry(Cranfield), R.Colgan/D.Rees (NRI)


  • 2009-2012 SA-Link Reducing energy usage and wastage by improving ethylene control of potato sprouting (D. Rees (NRI), R.Colgan (NRI), M,Taylor (JHI), G.Bryan (JHI), A.Cunnington (SBCSR)
  • 2004-2008 To optimise texture and flavour in stored apples using a genomic approach (M.Else, R.Colgan, K.Tobut, K.Evans) EMR
  • 2002-2004 Identification of the mechanism for reduced ethylene production in apple fruit (M.Else, J.Stow, R.Colgan, K.Tobut, K.Evans) EMR


  • 2016-2018 Horizon 2020 Thematic network-EUFRUIT
  • 1998-2003 FPIV: Novel Inhibitors of ethylene biosynthesis (E.Woltering (WUR), T. De Virje (WUR), J.Stow (EMR), R.Colgan (EMR))

Levy Body

  • 2016-2020 Improving tree fruit quality (AHDB-Hort)
  • 2015-2018 Role of mineral nutrition in maintaining post-harvest quality of stored potato ( AHDB-Potato)
  • 2014-2017 Chlorophyll fluorescence sensors for prediction of harvest maturity of broccoli (HDC)
  • 2014-2017 Reducing wastage in stored cabbage and Swedes (HDC)
  • 2012-2014 Developing Controlled atmosphere protocols for the extension of the storage life of Braeburn apples and new varieties of apples (HDC).
  • 2013-2014 Development of volatile capture and GC-MS/MS analysis of flavour compounds from Gala apples (HDC)
  • 2011-2014 Extending the storage and shelf-life of broccoli (HDC)
  • 2011- Review of senescent sweetening of potato- (PCL)
  • 2011-2013 Optimising the rate of CA establishment of Bramley’s Seedling Stores (HDC)
  • 2011-2013 Improving quality and reducing costs of Conference pear storage using SmartFresh (AHDB-Hort/AgroFresh)
  • 2017-2020 Unravelling the mechanisms controlling texture in stored blueberries (M.Carcamo)
  • 2016-2019 Structural and biochemical factors affecting apple response to long term low-oxygen storage (R.Fisher)
  • 2013-2017 The mechanism of senescent sweetening in potato (C.Carvalho)
  • 2010-2014 The role of calcium conjugation and regulation in the development of physiological disorders of apple (M.Mirzaee)
  • Buti M, Sargent DJ, Velasco R, Colgan RJ (2018).A study of gene expression changes at the Bp-2 locus associated with bitter pit symptom expression in apple (Malus pumila)- Molecular Breeding (38):85 .
  • Buti M, Poles L, Caset D, Magnago P, Fernandez Fernandez F, Colgan RJ, Velasco R, Sargent DJ (2014) Identification and validation of a QTL influencing bitter pit symptoms in apple (Malus x domestica). Molecular Breeding 35 (1):29.
  • 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, 85:89-96
  • 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 21:1221–1232.
  • 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 Res 19(2):241–256
  • 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.
  • 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. Postharvest 1996, Taupo, New Zealand Acta Horticulturae.464, 351-356
  • Co-founder of the Produce Quality Centre
  • Member of the Post-harvest convening group -Association of Applied Biologists (1998-2004)
  • Scientific Advisor to the CIPC- Stewardship Group- (2017-present)
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