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Ethylene: The responsible for the ripening of fruits and vegetables

Ethylene is a plant hormone, and it is the only hormone that is a gas.

Ethylene is a gaseous organic compound, consisting of two carbon atoms and four hydrogen atoms and is the first term of the alkene series. It is a colorless gas with a pleasant odor. Ethylene is not only of industrial importance, but it is also a hormone synthesized by plants and its action affects the development of plants, from seed germination to senescence and death of the seeds.

Ethylene is considered “the aging hormone of plants”. This gas is responsible for the ripening of fruits and vegetables, causing them to change color, obtain a softer texture and develop their characteristic flavor and aroma.

Fruits are classified into climacteric and non-climacteric according to their respiratory pattern and ethylene production during ripening:

Climacteric fruits significantly increase respiratory rate and ethylene production during ripening. The associated changes (color, flavor, aroma, texture) are rapid and intense. Among others: Apple, Mango, Avocado, Banana, Plum, Custard Apple, Fig, Melon, Peach, Pear, Tomato, Watermelon, Onions.

In non-climacteric fruits, ripening processes are continuous and gradual, maintaining low levels of respiration and ethylene production at all times. Among others: Cherry, Pumpkin, Grape, Grapefruit, Grapefruit, Pineapple, Lemon, Orange, Tangerine, Strawberry.

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In addition to this, there are fruits and vegetables that are very sensitive to ethylene. For example, broccoli, lettuce, asparagus, potatoes or carrots. See Table 2.

When a ripe fruit releases ethylene it accelerates the ripening of the fruits around it, causing them to decompose much faster than normal: bitter taste in carrots, increased roughness of asparagus leaves, reddish spots on lettuce, loss of color in broccoli or softening of ripe green tomatoes.

Maintaining good post-harvest food quality and ensuring that it reaches the consumer in perfect condition is very important for any fruit grower or distributor. As natural post-harvest ethylene production is inevitable, in addition to other artificial sources of this gas such as internal combustion engines, it is essential to take the necessary measures to ensure that ethylene does not affect the quality of fruits and vegetables transported to supermarkets.

Other sources of ethylene in the environment

In addition to the ethylene produced by the fruits themselves, fruits are exposed to different sources of exogenous ethylene during storage and transport:

Sources of Pathogens: Many species of bacteria and fungi produce ethylene.

Human sources: Any human activity involving combustion will produce ethylene.

Cross-contamination: Both in fruits in the same container and between containers and chambers.

The solution: Our PCO+ Photocatalytic Oxidation equipment ensures the reduction of ethylene levels in storage warehouses and transport vehicles so that food arrives in perfect condition.

Tabla 1 - Tasas de producción de etileno de diversos productos

Tasas de producción de etileno
[μ l/(kg*h)]
Productos
Cero: 0Alcachofa china, rábano japonés, tuna, hinojo de Florencia, yuca, col pak-choi, arándano, salsifí negro
Muy baja:
0.01 - 0.1
Piña, alcachofa, coliflor, brócoli, berros, champiñones, achicoria, col china, dátiles, endivias, guisantes, alcachofa de Jerusalén, pomelo, col rizada, jengibre, zanahoria, patata, cereza, ajo, apio, lima, maíz dulce, mandarina, rábano picante, naranja, chirivía, raíz de perejil, rebozuelo, puerro, rábano, ruibarbo, col de Bruselas, remolacha, col roja, nabo, col verde, espárragos, espinacas, rutabaga, apio, batata/camote, mandarina, taro, uva, col blanca, limón, cebolla
Baja:
0.1 - 1.0
Cereza de invierno, berenjena, berenjena, bayas, pepino amargo chorreando, naranja de Sevilla, frijol, clementina, caqui, lechuga iceberg, maíz dulce bebé, granada, guayaba, pepino, carambola, kiwi, coco, lechuga de repollo, kumquat, calabaza, limequat, oliva, pimiento dulce, chile, membrillo, rábano de jardín, satsuma, sandía, calabacín, zucchini
Moderada:
1.0 - 10.0
Plátano, higo, guayaba, melón, mango, mangostán, ciruela, tomate
Alto:
10.0 - 100.0
Albaricoque, palta, tamarillo/tomate andino, pera, papaya, melocotón, durazno, nectarina
Muy alto:
> 100.0
Manzana, chirimoya, maracuyá

Tabla 2 - Sensibilidad al etileno de algunas frutas

Sensibilidad al etilenoProductos
CeroNaranja sevillana, alcachofa china, clementina, hinojo, col pak-choi, rebozuelo, arándano, rábano de jardín, mandarinas
BajoPiña, cereza de invierno, alcachofa, berenjena, planta de huevo, bayas, pepino amargo, dátil, alcachofa de Jerusalén, higo, guayaba, granada, jengibre, tuna, carambola, zanahoria, cereza, ajo, apio, coco, calabaza, maíz dulce, yuca, rábano picante, pimienta, chirivía, ají, raíz de perejil, rábano, ruibarbo, remolacha/betarraga, nabo, salsifí negro, rutabaga, batata/camote, taro, uva, sandía, cebolla (seca)
Moderado
Tamarillo/tomate andino, frijol, champiñones, guisante, fruta de Jack, pomelo, guayaba, papa, lechuga, lima, lichi, mandarina, oliva, naranja, puerro, espárragos, apio, mandarina, limón, calabacín, zucchini, cebolla (verde)
Alto
Manzana, albaricoque, palta, plátano, pera, coliflor, brócoli, berro, chirimoya, achicoria, col china, caqui, lechuga iceberg, col rizada, pepino, melón, kiwi, mango, mangosta, papaya, maracuyá, melocotón, ciruela, membrillo, col de Bruselas, col roja, espinacas, tomate, col blanca, col de saboya

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