New research offers cost-effective solutions for ethylene problems

Ethylene is an odourless, colourless gas that plays a role in seed germination, fruit ripening, leaf yellowing, etc., but too much ethylene can lead to product loss via accelerated flower wilting, abnormal growth and other problems.

Results from two new research reports by AFE funded researchers Michelle Jones, Ph.D., and Nichole Edelman of The Ohio State University can help with ethylene concerns.

The tomato plant on the right has been exposed to ethylene.

“Ethylene can be very destructive in both production and post production environments,” Jones said. “Research aimed at understanding plant responses to ethylene and how to prevent damage will benefit producers, wholesalers, shippers, retailers and consumers.”

Use of Indicator Plants to Identify Ethylene Contamination in the Production Greenhouse

An ideal indicator plant is one that is very sensitive to ethylene, allowing for quick observation of symptoms of damage. Using indicator plants in the greenhouse is a simple and inexpensive way to prevent costly product loss due to ethylene damage.

The most common source of ethylene damage in the greenhouse is malfunctioning heating units, so place indicator plants near heaters or other equipment to quickly observe damage.

After testing 40 plants, the results confirm tomatoes are the best plants to use as indicator plants, with common cultivars like ‘Brandywine’ and ‘Better Boy’ being among the best. Young plants make better indicator plants than mature plants, so replace ageing indicator plants with younger plants before they flower.

“Overall, preventing ethylene damage during production results in a better quality crop,” Jones said. “Plants will have better shipping tolerance and better consumer performance. This has an impact on all aspects of the floriculture marketing chain.”

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