However, during this process, MeJA also signals a network of genes that lead to plant decay by inducing the release of ethylene, Juvik explained. "While we can use MeJA to turn on phytochemicals like the glucosinolates and dramatically increase the abundance of those helpful anti-cancer compounds, MeJA also reduces the shelf life after harvest," he said.
So the researchers tried using the recently developed compound 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP), which has been shown to interfere with receptor proteins in the plant that are receptor-sensitive to ethylene. They applied the compound after harvesting the same broccoli that had already been treated with MeJA before harvest.
"Ethylene will move and bind to ethylene receptors and that binding process initiates decay. What this compound does is that it more competitively lands on the protein and binds to or pushes out ethylene," Juvik explained. "It basically stops or dramatically slows down the decay associated with ethylene.
"The combination is good," he said.
Like MeJA, 1-MCP is also a non-toxic compound naturally produced in plants, although Juvik said synthetic forms can be produced. He stressed that both the MeJA and 1-MCP treatments required very small amounts of the compounds.
"It's very cheap, and it's about as toxic as salt. It takes very little to elevate all the desirable aspects. It's volatile and disappears from the product after about 10 hours," he said.
The use of these treatments could make a great impact on important global dilemmas such as food security issues and health-care costs, Juvik said.
"It's a fairly cheap way to maintain quality, but it provides a preventative approach to all the medical costs associated with degenerative diseases. These are not pills that go in and take away or change da
|Contact: Jack Juvik|
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences