Keeping the rhythm: light/dark cycles during postharvest storage preserve the tissue integrity and nutritional content of leafy plants
Liu, John D.
Kliebenstein, Daniel J.
Background: The modular body structure of plants enables detached plant organs, such as postharvest fruits and vegetables, to maintain active responsiveness to environmental stimuli, including daily cycles of light and darkness. Twenty-four hour light/darkness cycles entrain plant circadian clock rhythms, which provide advantage to plants. Here, we tested whether green leafy vegetables gain longevity advantage by being stored under light/dark cycles designed to maintain biological rhythms. Results: Light/dark cycles during postharvest storage improved several aspects of plant tissue performance comparable to that provided by refrigeration. Tissue integrity, green coloration, and chlorophyll content were generally enhanced by cycling of light and darkness compared to constant light or darkness during storage. In addition, the levels of the phytonutrient glucosinolates in kale and cabbage remained at higher levels over time when the leaf tissue was stored under light/dark cycles. Conclusions: Maintenance of the daily cycling of light and dark periods during postharvest storage may slow the decline of plant tissues, such as green leafy vegetables, improving not only appearance but also the health value of the crops through the maintenance of chlorophyll and phytochemical content after harvest.