University of California

Ask the Produce Docs (Commodity)

Do you have suggestions for alternative methods for producing ethylene to ripen bananas?

Category
  • Banana
Question

We manufacture ripening chambers for banana, in which we use ethephon and NaOH solution for producing ethylene gas as mentioned in your book “Postharvest Technology of Horticulture Crops.”  However, ethephon is costly in India. Can we use ethylene chlorohydrine + KOH for production of ethylene gas for ripening of fruits? (S.S.)

Answer

I don't believe that ethylene chlorohydrin would be an efficient substrate for producing ethylene. I'm not an organic chemist, so I may be in error. In any event, ethylene chlorohydrin is certainly more expensive than other alternatives that you might explore. Two possibilities that seem reasonable to me are the use of acetylene generated from calcium carbide (which I have seen being used in India).   Note that great care should be taken to avoid possibilities of explosive mixtures of acetylene and air being formed. Alternatively, you might consider dehydration of ethanol with a heated catalyst.  If catalytic converters for automobiles are produced in India, you may be able to obtain the necessary materials to manufacture such a device, whose only cost is a supply of electricity and ethanol. Lastly, you should explore the possibility of using ethylene gas, which is cheap, widely available, and very effective. Again you need to be careful about explosive mixtures, and it does require pressure reducers and metering systems, which are an up-front cost and require maintenance. 

--Michael Reid

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