Thursday, August 18, 2011

C2H4 – Are You Sensitive? Load Compatibility – Part 2

Welcome to part 2 in our series on Load Compatibility for shipments of fresh fruits and vegetables! Today, we take a look at ethylene sensitivity.

Ethylene – the basics:
Ethylene is a colorless gaseous organic compound with the chemical formula C2H4. It is the most produced organic compound in the world, with global production of ethylene exceeding 109 million tonnes in 2006! Ethylene also serves as a hormone in plants. It has a faintly sweetish smell that is the naturally produced ripening hormone of some, but not all fruit. It acts at trace levels through the life of the plant by stimulating or regulating the ripening of fruit, the opening of flowers, and the shedding of leaves. Commercial ripening rooms, widely used throughout the industry to stimulate the ripening of avocados and bananas for example, use catalytic generators to make ethylene gas from a liquid supply of ethanol.

Shipping produce:
As stated above, ethylene is a present hormone in some, but not all produce. Therefore, when shipping mixer loads, the presence of ethylene may not always be beneficial to the shelf life of all the products being transported. Ethylene exposure can also damage some products by stimulating premature ripening, loss of chlorophyll, loss of color, and exposing the product to rot. For this reason, industry experts have categorized fruits and vegetables into ethylene producers and ethylene sensitive groups. Mixing of product in the two groups for transport is not advised:

The Makers (Ethylene Producers):

Apples, Apricots, Avocados, Bananas (if ripening)
Cantaloupes, Cherimoya, Figs, Guavas
Honeydew, Quinces, Mamey, Mangoes
Nectarines, Papayas, Passionfruit, Peaches
Pears, Persimmons, Plantains, Plums
Kiwi (if ripe), Rambutan, Tomatoes, Mangosteen

The Shakers (Ethylene Sensitive) :

Bananas (if unripe), Beans (green), Belgian Endive, Broccoli
Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower
Chard, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Leafy Greens
Lettuce, Okra, Parsley, Peas
Peppers, Spinach, Squash, Sweet Potatoes
Watercress, Watermelons, Kiwi (if unripe), Yams

It is critical to keep the makers and shakers separate, in order to optimize the shelf life of produce in transport!
Odor absorption (part 1 in this series) and ethylene sensitivity (part 2 in this series) are just two considerations that must be taken into account. Stay tuned for more, including temperature, relative humidity, and special packaging/equipment requirements!!


Ethylene. Accessed on Aug 18, 2011.

Commodity References – Good Temperature Guidelines & Ethylene Sensitivity. Accessed on Aug 18, 2011.

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