Subscribe to our HortNews newsletter

UK scientists targeting strawberry shelf life


Lancashire-based Levity Crop Science claims that its development of its LoCal calcium transport stimulant for use with strawberry calcium feeds has the potential to increase the shelf life of the crop, as well as improving marketable yield and reducing waste, while reducing the quantity of calcium fertiliser required.

“The plant needs calcium to build strong cell walls, but it’s the premature breakdown of these cell membranes that makes fruit go soft. It’s at this point it rapidly succumbs to mould,” said Dr David Marks, managing director of Levity Crop Science.

“Unlike other fruits – bananas and apples, for example – strawberries don’t ripen in response to a gas, ethylene, produced by the plant. Instead, they have a gene that responds to falling levels of another plant hormone, called auxin. But auxin is also involved in moving calcium around the plant – so once the fruit starts to ripen, calcium can’t be properly absorbed.”

Initial work has been positive, and Levity is now looking to take the work further. “Of the fruit from plants treated with the new stimulant, nearly two-thirds was of marketable quality, compared to less than half of the fruit from the plants treated with standard calcium,” David continued. “We now need further research to establish beyond doubt how much extra shelf life this can deliver for the consumer.”

He claims that using the new additive, growers can reduce the average amount of calcium needed by two-thirds.