Growers should be wary of ethylene gas build up in greenhouses in the winter according to US researchers. They claim that the combination of high heat loads and reduced venting experienced in cold weather can lead to a detrimental build up of the gas.
According to the Michigan State University Extension service, growers using natural gas or propane fuelled heaters are particularly at risk, but the damage caused by ethylene, which acts as a plant hormone at concentrations as low as 0.01 ppm, can be difficult to identify as symptoms are so varied.
In an online article Tom Dudek and Randy Beaudry explain that a good indicator plant to detect ethylene in the greenhouse is the tomato. ‘They are highly sensitive and will twist or wilt when exposed to ethylene. Tomatoes will exhibit injury within 24 hours if ethylene is present. Thus, many growers will put a young potted tomato transplant into every new growing area they open up each season to test for low levels of the damaging gas,’ they write.
They advise that maintenance of equipment, combine with adequate ventilation, should avoid ethylene build up, as well as reduce the potentially fatal risks of carbon monoxide poisoning.