Slow Progress on Extending the Shelf Life of Melons

As melon fruit begin to ripen they produce large amounts of ethylene gas – and this gas in turn triggers a number of additional ripening reactions including fruit softening and weakening of the connection between the fruit and the rest of the plant. Although some of these ethylene responses are beneficial, they also ultimately lead the fruit to lose quality and become over mature. Unfortunately, the orange fleshed cantaloups that do well in the short growing season available in Saskatchewan also produce more ethylene than do the green fleshed honeydews – which may explain why locally grown cantaloups also seem to have a limited shelf life.

Aminoethoxyvinylyglycine (AVG) is a recently developed product that safely and effectively blocks ethylene production. AVG is used commercially in apples – where it is being used to supplement or substitute for very expensive controlled atmosphere storage. A recent study by Leskovar and associates (HortScience 2006 vol 41 p 1249-1252) suggests that AVG may be of only limited use for extending the post-harvest life span of melons. They found that application of AVG to the foliage of the melon crop 1-3 weeks prior to fruit harvest slowed ripening of the fruit and occasionally reduced fruit size without providing any beneficial effect on keeping quality. Applying the AVG through the drip system prior to harvest did improve fruit firmness after harvest, but had no effect on other key quality indicators.

Source: Leskovar et al. (2006) HortScience 41: 1249-1252