Gene could extend shelf life of produce

June 29, 2010 at 5:00 PM
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., June 29 (UPI) -- A gene found in yeast could extend the shelf life of tomatoes in supermarkets by about a week, a U.S. researcher says.

Avtar Handa, a Purdue University professor of horticulture, says introducing the gene into tomatoes slows aging and delays microbial decay, a university release said Monday.

The study, published in The Plant Journal, determined the results would probably transfer to most fruits.

Fully ripe tomatoes from plants that had the gene spermadine synthase introduced into them lasted about eight days longer before showing signs of shriveling compared with untreated plants, Handa said.

"It increased the quality of the fruit," Handa said. "If a tomato goes to market, people won't buy it if it has started to shrivel. If we can stop that wrinkling, we can extend the market time of the fruit."

The findings could have applications for areas that don't often get fresh fruit, said Autar Mattoo, a research plant physiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture who collaborated in the study.

"Shelf life is a major problem for any produce in the world, especially in countries such as in Southeast Asia and Africa that cannot afford controlled-environment storage," Mattoo said.

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