Longer mango season, shelf life made potential

Coimbatore: Mango lovers now have a reason to rejoice. The fruit, which floods the markets during summer, usually vanishes after that. But now, researchers at the department of nano science and technology of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) have come up with a technology to extend the ripening cycle and shelf life of the fruit.
The technology, christened ‘Enhanced Freshness Formulation’ (EFF), uses hexanal or hexanaldehyde, an organic compound secreted by plants. Hexanal is incorporated in a formulation of nano-particles. This is then dissolved in water. The solution is sprayed on trees before harvest. Fruits are dipped in the solution after harvest. Hexanal, which vaporizes easily, gets into the skin of the fruit and thickens it in nanometres, making it sturdier, say researchers at the department.

“Hexanal also inhibits the production of Phsopholipase D enzyme, which in turn slows down the production of ethylene, the enzyme responsible for ripening in fruits. This has been proven to extend the shelf life of the fruits by an average of 12 days,” said G J Janavi, head of the department of nano science and technology, who was the co-principal investigator of the research project, which was being carried out from April 2012.

The hexanal formulation was first developed and patented by researchers in Canada. “They had used it on temperate fruits like cherries and berries. The TNAU worked on using the formulation on tropical fruits, mainly mangoes. We made the formulation simpler and cost-effective,” she said. Janavi added that they conducted trials with around 4,000 farmers in Dindigul, Theni, Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri.

“We have seen after spraying the trees with the formulation 30 days and 15 days before harvest, the stalks get stronger and the fruits don’t come off easily. Also, the shelf life of the fruits gets extended by an average of 12 days,” she said.

Farmers, who have used the technology, say they have had positive results. “By using EFF, the harvest gets delayed by 15 to 20 days,” said M C Santhakumar, 68, a mango grower from Krishnagiri.

“If the market is flooded with mangoes during the season, the price drops drastically. But, by delaying ripening and prolonging the harvest, we could increase the price. I have been using the formulation on trial basis for the past five years on my 35-acre mango field. I have got Rs 1,500 extra profit per tonne,” said Santhakumar, in whose field the formulation was tested first.

The formulation provides a win-win situation for farmers and customers, says Arun R Nagarajan, 50, secretary of fruit growers association. “The technology helps in reducing wastage and also to supply fruits for a longer time,” he said. He added that EFF helps in realizing a staggered harvest, which streamlines the supply and also prevents price drop.

Researchers at TNAU say they have also used the technology on bananas. “We have tried dipping bananas in EFF solution and have got good results. Santhakumar said he tried the formulation on banana and found that it delayed ripening by almost 20 days.

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