How about a little peak into the secret life of plants? Fruit ripening is a form of senescence and signifies the final stage in fruit development. Ripening, of course, eventually leads to spoilage, so there are important commercial reasons to increase and control postharvest longevity.

Complicating matters, postharvest longevity varies naturally. Strawberries, for example, last only 7-10 days, but apples and lemons can be stored for months. Refrigeration is helpful, but certain produce (generally from sub-tropical to tropical regions) is very sensitive to cold temperatures.

There is also the practice of controlled atmosphere storage, whereby oxygen is kept at around 5 percent, carbon dioxide at 1 to 3 percent, and the temperature is set to whatever is ideal for the particular fruit. Many fruits will produce ethylene during the ripening process, and detecting and controlling the concentration of this gas allows the grower to optimize the ripening cycle, to take into account transportation time, and a reasonable shelf life for the retailer and consumer.

Interscan ethylene analyzers are at work in a number of large storage facilities, and in research centers devoted to improving the quality of produce.

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