The international trade in fruit and vegetables is of considerable importance and currently the EU is the biggest world market for these products. The European Union as a whole produces large quantities of fruit and vegetables, especially tomato, apple, citrus grapes and kiwi. However, production is both local and seasonal and thus requires extensive transportation and storage. The loss of quality during prolonged shipment and storage of these perishable commodities represents a major problem to EU fruit and vegetables growers.
The onset of ripening predisposes fruit to losses due to advanced senescence and decay through microbial attack. This is especially a problem in so-called climacteric produce in which ripening is controlled by the gaseous plant hormone ethylene. The detrimental effects of endogenously produced ethylene on the acceleration of ripening and senescence is well known. Ethylene causes great losses in commercial horticulture and limits control of endogenous ethylene production food crops by means of the currently available chemical inhibitors (e.g. silver salts, diaminozide compounds) is unacceptable both from an environmental as well as a consumer point of view. Recently, molecular genetic techniques to increase plant performance have been developed. Genetic engineering of food crops aiming to improve the postharvest life is currently applied to a very limited number of cases.
However, both laboratory as well as field experiments have showed that this approach is very successful. Extension of these techniques to a more complete range of fruit and vegetables represents a great economical challenge.
The proposed research project aims to increase plant quality, in particular the post harvest life of fruit and vegetables, by :
- suppression or over-expression of genes or gene-products in transgenic
plants to block undesirable effects of ethylene;
- development of novel, environmentally friendly, ripening inhibitors.
This project, thus, aims to provide new ways to improve quality and, thereby storability and transportability, of horticultural crops (mainly fruit and vegetables) through the manipulation and control of ethylene biosynthesis and action in an environmentally friendly way. The currently available knowledge and techniques will be extended and incorporated in commercial horticulture. In addition, new methods, based on knowledge about gene structure and structure/function relationships, to control ethylene related ripening and senescence will be developed and applied to target species. The research will be directed to production of produce that can be picked in a more mature stage, with high nutritional quality and taste/aroma while keeping quality is still satisfactory. Improved postharvest performance by controlled expression of genes can be applied to many high quality crops and has, therefore, a
tremendous market potential, already if only relatively minor progress could be achieved.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
711 10 Heraklion
711 10 Heraklion
LE12 5RD Loughborough
145 64 Athens - Kifissia