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Delayed Ripening

August 7, 2014

Naturally occurring soil bacteria can make fruit ripen more slowly – potentially saving a lot of food and money.



A slower ripening process. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Much of the fruit we harvest rots before it’s eaten or even sold. Georgia State University microbiologist George Pierce and his colleagues are looking to curtail that problem. Pierce says existing methods can keep some fruits firm, but then they never achieve peak flavor.

GEORGE PIERCE (Georgia State University):

The issue has always been could you find a way to delay the ripening process, but still end up with that equivalent to what you get off a tree: a fully ripened fruit?

Pierce’s team isolated a common species of soil bacteria that interferes with ripening, and made it extra active, without genetic engineering. Just putting the bacteria near the fruit – without touching it – slowed down the ripening process but didn’t affect the food’s ultimate quality. One possible strategy is to coat shipping boxes with the bacteria, to keep fruit from rotting and bruising during transport. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.