UC Davis postharvest expert Kader retires after 35 years

Adel Kader, postharvest physiology professor, has retired after 35 years of service at the University of California, Davis, including 29 years with a split appointment as a UC Cooperative Extension specialist.

A native of Cairo, Egypt, Kader earned his bachelor's degree in horticulture from Ain Shams University in Cairo, then came to the United States in 1961 to pursue graduate studies. After earning his master's in vegetable crops and a Ph.D. in plant physiology from UC Davis, he returned to Cairo and joined the faculty of the College of Agriculture at Ain Shams University, where he taught courses and conducted research for six years. In 1972 he joined the UC Davis faculty and became a U.S. citizen in 1976.

Kader entered the university as a premedical student, but became more interested in plant biology and transferred to the College of Agriculture. "By my second year, I became very interested in postharvest biology and the potential for increasing food availability by reducing postharvest losses," he recalled. "That is why I have spent most of my adult life learning and teaching about postharvest biology and technology of horticultural crops."

His research focused on preserving the flavor and nutritional quality of intact and fresh-cut fruits. He has published more than 230 technical publications and edited and co-authored a book titled "Postharvest Technology of Horticultural Crops."

Along with research, Kader took pride in mentoring 36 graduate students and 60 researchers who spent three months or longer in his laboratory. Among his students were Kathy Kelley Anderson, UCCE farm advisor in Stanislaus County; Mary Lu Arpaia, UC Riverside Cooperative Extension subtropical horticulturist; and James Gorny, who was recently hired as executive director of the UC Davis Postharvest Technology Research and Information Center.

"He was an amazing mentor as a graduate advisor and a good friend and inspiration as I have pursued my career," said Arpaia, who is based at Kearney Research and Extension Center in Parlier. Arpaia says Kader has played an important role in the fresh fruit and vegetable industries because he kept researchers and processors focused on quality.

Elizabeth Mitcham, UCCE postharvest pomologist, agreed: "He is a very strong advocate for the importance of good flavor in fruit crops that are marketed to consumers."

"Adel is one of the great leaders in postharvest biology," said Mitcham, pointing to his studies related to phytonutrients in fruits, controlled atmosphere storage and understanding the biological responses of fruits to controlled atmosphere storage (atmospheres with reduced oxygen and elevated carbon dioxide concentrations).

He led the UC Postharvest Biology and Technology Program by coordinating teaching, research and extension activities. He was also active in international professional societies and conferences for postharvest scientists.

In 1979 he and his colleagues began offering the annual two-week Postharvest Technology Short Course, which has been attended by about 2,500 people from all over the world. The second week is a field tour from Davis down the San Joaquin Valley to Bakersfield and back via the coast, from Salinas through San Francisco, to visit about 20 postharvest handling operations for fruits, vegetables and ornamental horticulture.

"The tour served many, many people over the years and I am sure it had a real impact on industry postharvest practices," said Anderson, who participated in one of the tours.

Kader also organized field trips during August and September for pomology graduate students to see harvesting and postharvest handling of fruit and nut crops.

In 1998 he launched the postharvest Web site (http://postharvest.ucdavis.edu) which has become the premier source of postharvest information worldwide, averaging more than 200,000 hits per month in 2007. In retirement, he continues to volunteer as technical editor for the site.

He serves on the editorial boards of two scientific journals. He served on the Scientific Advisory Council of the World Food Logistics Organization and the Research Advisory Board of the Produce for Better Health Foundation.

Kader received awards for outstanding teaching in 1989 and for distinguished graduate mentoring in 2003 from UC Davis and for best research publications in 1978 and 1980 from the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS). He was elected a fellow of ASHS in 1986, and served as president-elect in 1995, president in 1996, and chairman of the board of directors in 1997. He was selected as the Outstanding Horticulturist of 1997 by the Horticultural Research Center at Laval University, Quebec, Canada. In 2000 Kader received the "Award of Distinction" from the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and the "Alumni Citation for Excellence" from the Cal Aggie Alumni Association.

In retirement, Kader and his wife, Aileen, plan to spend more time with their two grandchildren, who live in Redding, and travel the United States and other countries. He also intends to do some consulting to raise funds for the UC Davis postharvest endowment.

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