J. Alan Sullivan

J. Alan Sullivan
Professor (retired)
Adjunct Professor



519-824-4120 x52792


B.Sc. University of Guelph;
M.Sc. University of Guelph;
Ph.D. University of Guelph


Edmund C. Bovey Building


4222 ECB

The research program focuses on the breeding, genetics, physiology and management of ornamental species. Major emphasis is placed on flowering species that are native to Canada and species capable of thriving on environments with low inputs of water and nutrients. Potatoes are also included in our investigations. Activities within the Gosling Research Institute for Plant Preservation (GRIPP)focus on the preservation of endangered plant species.

Breeding, Genetics and Physiology of Ornamental Species.  Native flowering species hold great potential for the landscape industry and consumers. Candidate species are first screened for their potential to thrive in low input conditions using a system developed in our lab. Species with the greatest potential are entered into the breeding program. Germplasm collection is an on-going process for candidate species. Breeding emphasizes population improvement and hybrid development. During breeding, testing is done in environments consistent with a low input environment with special attention paid to drought tolerance and associated mechanisms. Measurement of net carbon exchange rates provides an understanding of plant response to these low input environments. Species such as Aguilegia sp. and Liatris sp. have been used to develop a model system. Concurrent with the breeding program, in vitro propagation systems are developed for the species with the greatest potential for commercialization.

Genotype by environment interactions and cultivar testing of potato - Since 1998, the research program has been identifying selections adapted to the potato growing regions in Ontario. Strong links to the National Potato Breeding Program at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Fredericton, NB have provided a continuous supply of advanced lines for testing. The program has emphasized identification of selections with high yield, quality and storage potential. Recent studies have identified variability for resistant starch in cultivars and advanced selections which are linked to dietary considerations and human health. G x E studies are used to determine the influence of environment on important characteristics such as sugar content and frying quality, starch profiles and glycemic index and phytochemical and antioxidant activity.  One of the new projects is the study of very early maturing selections and frying quality for the chipping industry.

Post-harvest quality and genetics of temperature and tropical fruits.  A large IDRC project involving University of Guelph researchers, (J. Subramanian, G. Paliyath , L. Lim, and A. Sullivan) and teams from India and Sri Lanka has allowed us to work on the post-harvest physiology of tropical and temperate fruit species. The project involves on the use of nanotechnology and  hexanal to improve shelf-life. The teams in India and Sri Lanka are focusing on mango while the University of Guelph team is focusing on plus, cherry, strawberry and blueberry. Hexanal is applied in the field and incorporated into packaging materials. In strawberry, my lab is studying the molecular mechanisms and hormonal regulation of cell-wall metabolic genes involved in fruit softening.


Chair, University Program Prioritization Process (PPP) Chaired a 21-member committee to review and score the 492 programs that make up the academic and non-academic activities within the University. The report (co-authored by Michelle Fach) will be used to inform budget decisions during 2013 to 2016.

Associate Director of the Gosling Research Institute for Plant Preservation. The Institute was formed in 2011, thanks to the generous donations of Philip and Susan Gosling. The mission of GRIPP is to “preserve endangered plant species through research, education and service programs.”

Senator –  Current member. Past activities -Founding Chair of the Planning and Priorities Committee, Chair of Senate Executive Committee, Chair and Vice-chair of the Board of Graduate Studies

Member, Board of Governors (past), Elected by Senate and served two terms 2006-09 and 2009-12. During my tenure I was a member of Physical Resources and Property and Finance Committees.


Relevant Links:

Selected Publications:

Pinhero, R.G., R. Waduge, Q. Liu, J.A. Sullivan, R. Tsao, B. Bizimungu and R.Y. Yada. (2016). Evaluation of nutritional profiles of starch and dry matter from early potato varieties and its estimated glycemic impact. Food Chemistry. 203: 356-366.

Pinhero, R.G., R. Tsao, Q. Liu, J.A. Sullivan, B. Bizimungu and Y.Y. Rickey. (2016). Protein and phenolic contents and antioxidant activities of 14 early maturing potatoes as affected by processing. American Journal of Plant Sciences. 7: 69-81.

El-Sharkawy, I., S. Sherif, W. El Kayal, B. Jones, Z. Li, J.A. Sullivan and J. Subramanian. (2016). Overexpression of plum receptor PS1TIR1 in tomato alters plant growth, fruit development and fruit shelf-life characteristics. BMC Plant Biology. 16: 56. DOI: 10.1186/s12870-016-0746-z.

El-Sharkawy, I., S. Sherif, T. Qubbaj, J.A. Sullivan and J. Subramanian. (2015). Stimulated auxin levels enhance plum fruit ripening, but limit shelf-life characteristics. Postharvest Biology and Technology. 112: 215-223.

Misran, A., P. Padmananbhan, J.A. Sullivan, S. Khanizadeh, G. Paliyath. (2015). Composition of phenolics and volatiles in strawberry cultivars and influence of preharvest hexanal treatment on their profiles. Canadian Journal of Plant Science 95 (1): 115-126. DOI 10.4141/CJPS-2014-245.

Padmanabhan, P., S.J. Murch, J.A. Sullivan and P. Saxena. (2015). Micropropagation of Primula dryas (Dunn) Mich. Moller and A. Webber: High frequency regeneration from leaf explants. Scientia Horticulturae. 192 (20): 250-255.

Shukla, M.R., A.M.P. Jones, J.A. Sullivan, C. Liu, S. Gosling and P. Saxena. (2014). In vitro conservation of American Elm (ulmus americana): potential role of auxin metabolism in sustained plant proliferation. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 42: 686-697.

Padmanabhan, P., S.J. Murch, J.A. Sullivan, P.K. Saxena. (2014). Development of an efficient protocol for high frequency in vitro regeneration of a horticultural plant Primula tamiana (B.L. Butt) Mich. Moller & A. Webber. Canadian Journal of Plant Science. 94: 1-7. DOI: 10.4141/CJPS-2014-066.

Proctor, J.T. and J.A. Sullivan. (2013). Effect of seeding depth on seedling growth and dry matter partitioning in American ginseng. Journal of Ginseng Research. 37 (2): 254-260. [Contribution: 50%].

Bach, S., R. Yada, B. Bizimungu, M. Fan and J.A. Sullivan. (2013). Genotype by environment interaction effects on fibre components in potato (Solanum tuberosum L.). Euphytica. 187: 77-86.

Bach, S., R. Yada, B. Bizimungu, M. Fan and J.A. Sullivan. (2013). Genotype by environment interaction effects on starch content and digestibility in potato (Solanum tuberosum L.). Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 61: 3941-3948.

Harbut, R.M., J.A. Sullivan, J.T.A. Proctor and H.J. Swartz. (2012). Net carbon exchange rate of Fragaria species, synthetic octoploids, and derived germplasm. Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science. 137: 202-209.

Bach, S., R.Y. Yada, B. Bizimungu and J.A. Sullivan. (2012). Genotype by environment interaction effects on fibre components in potato (Solanum tuberosum L.). Euphytica. 187: 77-86.

Shukla, M., A.M.P. Jones, J.A. Sullivan, C. Liu, S. Gosling and P.K. Saxena. (2012). In vitro conservation of American Elm (Ulmus Americana): potential role of auxin metabolism in sustained plant proliferation. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 42: 686-697.

Hu, C., R. Tsao, R. Liu, J.A. Sullivan and M.R. McDonald. (2012). Influence of cultivar and year on phytochemical and antioxidant activity of potato. (Solanum tuberosum L.) in Ontario. Canadian Journal of Plant Science. 92: 485-493.

Shukla, M., J.A. Sullivan, S.M. Jain, S.J. Murch, P.K. Saxena. (2012). Micropropagation of African Violet (Saintpaulia ionantha Wendl.). Protocols for Micropropagation of Selected Economically-Important Horticultural Plants. 994: 279-289. DOI: 10.1007/978-1-62703-074-8_22.

Affleck, I., J.A. Sullivan, R. Tarn and R. Yada. (2012). Stability of eight potato genotypes for sugar content and French Fry quality at harvest and after storage. Canadian Journal of Plant Science. 92: 87-96.

Kinnear, T., T. Wolever, A. Murphy, J. A. Sullivan, Q. Liu, and B. Bizimungu. (2011). Effect of method of preparation on the glycemic index of novel potato clones. Food & Function. 2: 438-444.

Harbut, R.M., J.A. Sullivan and J.T.A. Proctor. (2010). Temperature affects dry matter production and net carbon exchange rate of lower-ploidy Fragaria species and hybrids. Canadian Journal of Plant Science. 90 (6): 885-892.

Harbut, R.M., J.A. Sullivan, J.T.A. Proctor and H.J. Swartz. (2009). Early generation performance of Fragaria species hybrids in crosses with cultivated strawberry. Canadian Journal of Plant Science. 89: 1117-1126.