U.K. scientists closer to controlling when fruits ripen

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U.K. scientists closer to controlling when fruits ripen

Researchers in the United Kingdom have made a discovery that could allow future farmers to control when their fruits ripen.

Chloroplasts from different genotypes of thale cress, Photo: Mats and Paula Töpel

In a study published in Science, University of Leicester biologists found a way to influence chloroplasts, the part of the plant that controls photosynthesis. The team was able to control the gene SP1 and manipulate the speed at which chloroplasts develop into highly-pigmented chromoplasts during plant ripening.

Paul Jarvis, the lead researcher, said that although the findings do not necessarily indicate success on a commercial scale, they are a start.

"Although we don’t have evidence yet that one could use this to influence fruit ripening in a crop, we’ve done quite detailed studies in a model plant, thale cress, which provides good evidence that there’s a chance this is going to work in crops," Jarvis said.

"There’s a good chance this could allow the ripening process to be either speeded up or slowed down."

Within the next year, the research team will apply their findings to tomato plants.

If made useable in crops, the research could mean more sustainable food production.

Professor Douglas Kell, chief executive of grantmaker Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, said the research highlights one of many ways that science can help improve crop yields and reduce food waste.

“The ripening process can happen quickly, and it can take just a few days for a fruit or vegetable to be considered inedible. This unavoidable process means big losses to both farmers and consumers," Kell said.

"This discovery brings us one step closer to greater control over ripening so that we have greater flexibility for farmers when supplying produces in the best condition."


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