The researchers, horticultural specialits Professor Zora Singh and organic chemist Dr Alan Payne, from the Curtin University in Western Australia have developed the compounds called ‘ethylene antagonists’.
These can help solve the problem of fruit and vegetables over-ripening and spoiling due to the natural production of ethylene gas as they ripen.
According to Curtin University, nearly half of all fruit and vegetables spoil before they are bought, and one of the main reasons for this is a chemical called ethylene, which fruit gives off as it ripens. This causes over-ripening of fruit, spoilage of vegetables and loss of petals in flowers.
The new compound developed by the researchers, prevents the produce from reacting to ethylene by coating it. It can be distributed in a range of ways such as a stable solid, liquid or gas. This means it can be used as a spray, dip or wax and can be added in the field or post-harvest.
This development, according to the University, promises to reduce food waste, so that land and water can be used more sustainably, benefitting the environment and economy.
There are already products on the market being used by manufacturers and supermarkets to slow down the deterioration of fruit and vegetables.
Ethylene scavengers are inserts placed into packages to stem the ripening process by aiding the adsorption ethylene as it is produced.
In 2013, Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Waitrose adopted the use of ethylene scavengers in their packs of fresh produce. They act like catalytic converters by removing the ethylene gas, which causes the fruit to ripen.