GSU professor develops new method to help keep fruit, vegetables and flowers fresh

Oct 20, 2009

Did you know that millions of tons of fruits and vegetables in the United States end up in the trash can before being eaten, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture? A Georgia State University professor has developed an innovative new way to keep produce and flowers fresh for longer periods of time.

Microbiologist George Pierce's method uses a naturally occurring microorganism — no larger than the width of a human hair — to induce enzymes that extend the ripening time of fruits and , and keeps the blooms of flowers fresh. The process does not involve genetic engineering or pathogens, but involves microorganisms known to be associated with plants, and are considered to be helpful and beneficial to them.

"These beneficial soil microorganisms serve essentially the same function as eating yogurt as a probiotic to have beneficial organisms living in the ," Pierce said.

The process works by manipulating the organism's diet so that it will over express certain enzymes and activities that work in the ripening process and keeping the flower blooms fresh. Pierce analogizes this to using diet and exercise to improve the performance of an athlete.

"We change the diet of the organism, and we can change its performance," Pierce said. "It's no different than taking a good athlete and putting them on a diet and exercise regime, and turning him or her into a world-class athlete."

In a very simple sense, climacteric plants — such as apples, bananas, peaches and tomatoes —respond to climactic change, and when they do, they produce increased levels of signal compounds like ethylene. For such as peaches, ethylene causes the peach to ripen, increases aroma chemicals, but unfortunately, makes the peach very fragile.

"If you've seen ripe peaches, they will simply fall apart," Pierce said. "It will lose 90 percent of its ability to resist pressure, which means that if a peach responds normally to ethylene, it is subject to bruising when you ship it."

The enzymes produced from Pierce's new method reduce the response to signal compounds so that it takes a longer period of time for fruits to ripen, doubling the time it takes for ripening.

The catalyst in this process can be distributed through various formulations and configurations. These include being incorporated into shipping boxes, packing materials or used to treat the air of shipping containers. It could be used either with individual fruits or vegetables or for larger, bulk quantities.

This new process could have a big impact on preventing waste, improving the consumption of healthy fruits and vegetables, allowing companies to ship produce longer distances.

"Who hasn't bought fruit or vegetables and then thrown them away?" Pierce said. "Most people will buy more, and consume more, if they know that they could have a better quality of produce for longer." Pierce said.

The method also will allow for the storage of fruits, vegetables and flowers at room temperatures rather than refrigeration, thus helping to save energy, Pierce said.

Source: Georgia State University (news : web)

Explore further: Life's extremists may be an untapped source of antibacterial drugs

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Laser Shows if Fruit's Beauty is Only Skin Deep

May 08, 2005

The produce industry is working with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to make sure that fruits and vegetables taste as good as they look. They're counting on "machine vision" tools that can predict ...

Recommended for you

Cohesin molecule safeguards cell division

Nov 21, 2014

The cohesin molecule ensures the proper distribution of DNA during cell division. Scientists at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna can now prove the concept of its carabiner-like ...

Nail stem cells prove more versatile than press ons

Nov 21, 2014

There are plenty of body parts that don't grow back when you lose them. Nails are an exception, and a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) reveals some of the r ...

Scientists develop 3-D model of regulator protein bax

Nov 21, 2014

Scientists at Freie Universität Berlin, the University of Tubingen, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) provide a new 3D model of the protein Bax, a key regulator of cell death. When active, Bax ...

Researchers unwind the mysteries of the cellular clock

Nov 20, 2014

Human existence is basically circadian. Most of us wake in the morning, sleep in the evening, and eat in between. Body temperature, metabolism, and hormone levels all fluctuate throughout the day, and it ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.