Edith Cowan University (ECU) horticultural scientists compiled last year’s research from around the world to evaluate the benefits of melatonin application to fruits and vegetables, to help preserve these highly perishable foods—in longer.
Lead researcher Professor Zora Singh said up to 44% of fresh horticultural produce is lost from farm to consumption, and ‘chilling damage’ plays a major role in postharvest losses.
“You often see abnormal ripening, sunken spots, pitting, hardening of the flesh and browning of the skin and pulp of fruits stored in cold weather, while browning of the tissues, translucency and water-soaked wounds on vegetables, that’s what we call chilling injury,” Professor Singh explained.
“The average storage temperature for subtropical fruits and vegetables usually ranges from 4-8°C while 10-20°C is the best temperature to avoid chilling damage to tropical horticultural produce. ”
Professor Singh and his team claim that most of the evidence points to melatonin as one of the best ways to prevent or reduce the effects of chilling damage in fruits and vegetables stored in cold weather.
“Melatonin is a natural sleeping hormone in living organisms, and it also helps to reduce chilling damage symptoms and membrane leakage by maintaining a higher level of antioxidants and freshness in horticultural products,” researcher and Ph. d. student Shoaib Shah explained.
“Melatonin is a safe alternative to dangerous chemical treatments, without any adverse effects on the health of consumers.”
Global food security—the challenge
Food security around the world is a growing problem, with food losses increasing every year.
- 13.2% of food, worth $400 billion, is lost annually between harvest and the retail market (FAO 2019)
- 17% of food production is wasted in households, food services and retail (UNEP 2020)
- Food loss and waste account for approximately 8-10% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (UNEP 2021)
Fresh produce, such fruit production is declining, the result of the reduction of agricultural land, reduced availability of water supply, climate change and soil degradation.
Chilling damage is another important factor contributing to that decline, resulting in 44% of fruit and vegetables being unfit for human consumption worldwide.
Tropical and sub-tropical fruits are most at risk, as they rot easily.
While fruits like apples can be stored for up to nine months, berries can only be stored in the refrigerator for seven to 12 days.
“When it comes to grains and other products for harvesting, they are more stable than fresh horticultural produce,” said Professor Singh.
“Fruits and vegetables are not only a challenge to grow, preserving them is very difficult and it is a crisis that affects countries all over the world, so we need to find a solution to continue producing food from one’s soil sustainable way.”
Professor Zora Singh is a Foundation Professor of Horticultural Science in ECU’s School of Science with global research expertise in production technology and postharvest physiology of horticultural crops.
Currently, Professor Singh and his research team, including Ph.D. students, working to mitigate global food and nutrition security challenges by improving production technology and reducing postharvest losses of fresh horticultural produce—from farm to fork.
The study was published in the journal Food Reviews International.
Hafiz Muhammad Shoaib Shah et al, Insight into the Role of Melatonin in Reducing Chilling Injury and Maintaining the Quality of Cold-Stored Fruits and Vegetables, Food Reviews International (2023). DOI: 10.1080/87559129.2023.2212042
Provided by Edith Cowan University
Citation: Melatonin doesn’t just help you sleep—it helps keep fruits and vegetables fresh (2023, July 19) retrieved on July 19, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-07-melatonin- doesnt-sleepit-fruit-utan.html
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