Ethylene Control for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables in Cold Storage

Are you wondering why some fruits or vegetables rot faster than others? This is due to ethylene which when used in controlled environments hastens the ripening process of both fruits and vegetables. This blog will inform you how ethylene can affect products and how a cold storage unit aids in controlling the effects of ethylene.

fruits or vegetables rot faster



What is Ethylene Gas?

Ethylene is a gas that is both colorless and flammable and a small amount of it can hasten the ripening process of both fruits and vegetables. It affects fruits and vegetables by certain changes such as softening and an increase in sugar content. Exposure to large amounts of ethylene in fruit and vegetables makes them spoil and rot faster.



Understanding Ethylene in Fresh Produce

Ethylene has a large impact on the shelf life of fruits and vegetables. The impacts are the following:


1. Ethylene Gas as a Ripening Agent

Ethylene is a plant hormone in gas form. As fruits and vegetables reach their mature stage, ethylene is produced which then influences the production of pigments to signify the ripening process such as color changes. It also affects the level of sweetness due to the conversion of starch to sugar in both plants and vegetables.

Ethylene is a plant hormone


2. Climacteric vs. Non-Climacteric Produce

These two classifications show how fruits and vegetables react to ethylene.


Climacteric: After being harvested, fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, apples, and bananas to name a few, continuously produce ethylene which enables them to ripen quickly.


Non-Climacteric: After harvest, broccoli, lettuce, carrots, and potatoes are just some of the vegetables that rely on external factors to ripen. They produce very little amount of ethylene after being harvested.


3. Temperature Sensitivity

High temperatures increase the amount of ethylene produced by fruits and vegetables while low temperatures slow down its production. At higher temperatures, climacteric and non-climacteric fruits and vegetables are more easily affected by the effects of ethylene while at low temperatures, their resistances increase.



Ethylene Control Strategies in Cold Storage

The freshness and quality of both fruits and vegetables are their selling points which is why the control of the ripening process induced by ethylene should be controlled especially in cold storage facilities. The following are some of the techniques to achieve this goal:


1. Temperature Management

As stated earlier, high, and low temperatures affect both fruits and vegetables differently. Since climacteric fruits and vegetables can still produce ethylene even after harvest, they are more affected by external ethylene that is why temperatures ranging between 0°C -5°C are ideal to decrease their vulnerability to external ethylene. On the other hand, non-climacteric fruits and vegetables need temperatures between 5°C and 10°C to lessen ethylene production.

fruits and vegetables


2. Ventilation

Proper airflow and periodic introduction of fresh air to the storage area is necessary to remove the presence of accumulated ethylene gas but you need to make sure that the air does not have ethylene in it. Avoid areas near exhausts and high traffic as these contribute to the presence of ethylene in the air. Excessive ventilation on the other hand increases the consumption of energy which is why there is a need to regulate the introduction of fresh air to the unit.


3. Segregation

Sensitive products such as berries and green leafy vegetables should be separated from high ethylene-producing products such as melons and mangoes to keep them from spoiling sooner because exposure, even for a short time can accelerate the ripening process.


4. Ethylene Scrubbers

These are specialized components used to trap and remove ethylene from within the storage. These components use filters to “scrub” the ethylene from the air which makes them highly effective. The downside is that the cost and maintenance are high to keep them in optimal condition.


5. 1-Methycyclopropene Treatment

This is a type of gas treatment used specifically for apples and pears to inhibit the ripening effect of ethylene. Researchers are still conducting studies to see if 1-Methycyclopropene will be effective for a broader application and long-term effects on other products.

apples and pears


6. Reducing Oxygen Content

This treatment changes the gas composition within the cold storage. The idea is to decrease the oxygen amount while increasing the presence of carbon dioxide. This prolongs the shelf life of fruits and vegetables while maintaining their quality.



Benefits of Ethylene Control in Cold Storage for Fruits and Vegetables:


1. Extend Fruits and Vegetables Shelf life.

Ethylene control is beneficial in the way that it prolongs the shelf life of both fruits and vegetables by slowing the ripening process caused by ethylene. This results in less waste and spoilage of products.


2. Improved Overall Quality of Fruits and Vegetables

Not only does ethylene control prolong the shelf life of products, but it also maintains their texture. Your fruits and vegetables do not soften or lose their texture quickly but also keep their aesthetic appeal longer. The fresher they look, the more appetizing they are.

prolong the shelf life of fruits and vegetables


3. Minimizing Spoilage and Waste

Ethylene control when properly done minimizes the number of waste caused by overripe fruits and vegetables. It increases the sustainability of the products and at the same time decreases the pressure given to the agricultural sector. Minimal waste leads to bigger profits as the quality of the products is maintained.


4. Increased Customer Satisfaction

People choose products that are of high quality. This is a fact that every business owner understands which is why when proper control of ethylene is maintained, the fruits and vegetables are kept in their best state which leads to customer satisfaction.

Increased Customer Satisfaction



Ethylene gas can both be an advantage and disadvantage in the fruit and vegetable business. Proper control of it can ensure that the products keep their freshness and quality for long periods while decreasing the amount of waste due to spoilage caused by the quick ripening of the products. 


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