A simple, cheap treatment using just oxygen could allow organic produce growers to store their crops for longer and go a long way towards reducing the price of organic fruit and vegetables.

I admit that I am into organic produce but mostly because it tastes better and fresher than the conventionally grown fruits and vegetables and not because I am a health freak. The big downside is the price. Currently I pay around twice as much for organic. This price difference comes from the large losses that organically grown crops sustain during storage. Conventional produce can be treated with inexpensive chemicals to aid preservation, but these cannot be used for organic produce.

Edna Pesis and her team at the Volcani Center, Israel, have devised what they expect to be an effective and cheap technique to keep apples in cold storage for longer. A simple week long pre-treatment with low levels of oxygen at 20ºC was shown to prevent scald formation – a type of chilling injury associated with prolonged cold storage.

Pesis reported that 90% of the treated apples were saved from the scald problem after eight months of cold storage. (Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture DOI: 10.1002/jsfa2873). 100% of untreated apples were lost after eight months. The technique can be tweaked for use with avocados, tomatoes and other organic produce.