A NEW TECHNOLOGY to extend shelf life and quality of fruits is set to be rolled out in the country with scientists banking on it to boost farmers’ earnings.

Researchers from the University of Nairobi, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) and Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) have been testing hexanal, a naturally occurring compound extracted from plants.

Hexanal slows down plant enzymes responsible for breaking cell membranes during the ripening process.

The technology has been developed in Canada for the last 30 years and tested in India and Sri Lanka. It has been tested in Kenya since 2014.

Prof Margaret Chesang, the lead researcher, said they had successfully tested hexanal on banana and pawpaw in Kenya extending storage by nine and six days, respectively.

The hexanal solution is applied by spraying fruit trees 30 and 15 days before harvesting or dipping mature green fruits after harvesting.

“Hexanal has the odor of freshly cut grass and does not remain on the fruit after 48 hours. Sprayed fruits can be retained on the tree for an extra 14 days. This means improved livelihoods and incomes for farmers. We are now releasing the results to farmers and other stakeholders awaiting registration by Kephis,” said Prof Chesang.

The compound is mixed with water at the rate of two to three per cent before application. “Hexanal is already in use in India where it has been registered. It is safe to consumers and has no negative effect on sugars and Vitamin C in fruits,” she said.

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Prof Chesang said by using hexanal, farmers will have time to negotiate for better prices and avoid glut in the market.

BY — DAVID MUCHUI

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