Increased firmness and modified cell wall composition by ethylene were reversed by the ethylene inhibitor 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP) in the non-climacteric olives harvested at dark green stage - Possible implementation of ethylene for olive quality.
This study aimed to investigate the firmness retention by ethylene treatment in olive fruit, as observed earlier. Ethylene concentrations up to 1000 μL L-1 were applied to dark green 'Konservolia' olives harvested shortly before the green maturation and exposed to 20 °C for up to 9 d. Surprisingly, the results indicated a tendency to fruit firmness increases in concentration-dependent manner in a non-climacteric fruit. The highest concentration increased the firmness within 12 h by approximately 1.35-fold, but transiently for approximately up to 5 d; all ethylene inhibitors tested, either of synthesis (ethoxyvinyl glycine or AVG), or perception (1 -methyl-cyclopropene or 1-MCP, and silver nitrate) prevented the firmness increase. Texture was evaluated by firmness and changes in lignin, cellulose (CL), total pectins (TPC), water soluble pectins (WSP) and total non-cellulosic sugars (total sugars) concentrations, and in pectin esterification degree (DE) in the alcohol insoluble residue (AIR) of 'Konservolia' fruit pericarp during 1.5-d, 5-d and 10-d treatments with 1000 μL L-1 ethylene at 20 °C. Pectins in AIR were also extracted sequentially with cyclohexane-trans-1,2-diaminetetra-acetate (CDTA), Na2CO3, 1 M and 4 M KOH. The results showed that on day 1.5, the increased firmness was consistent with increased CL (crystalline formation, as observed by microscopy), total sugars and DE levels, but reduced WSP, whereas softening reversed the changes and lowered TPC and CDTA-soluble pectins in all fruit on day 10. However, on day 5 ethylene-treated olives exhibited a transitional phase during softening, characterized by retention of high TPC concentration and energy demand, as indicated by elevated respiration rates. The inhibitor 1-MCP, applied before ethylene, did inhibit the responses to ethylene treatment. Ethylene firming effect and the respective cell wall changes in olives are demonstrated for first time. The experiments could be used for research on perception and transcription responses to ethylene in olive, a non-climacteric fruit. In practice, high ethylene concentrations could also be beneficial for firmness increase and/or short storage of dark green olives.