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Crop storage may alter nutritional value

A study reported in Current Biology could have huge implications for the way crops are stored post harvest.  The essential finding of the study was that even after harvesting, food crops may continue to be affected by the same circadian rhythms (an organism’s response to light changes over a 24hour period) as they do when growing. This response includes the build up (and loss) of herbivore resistant chemicals, and some nutritional chemicals.  The researchers from Rice University made their initial discovery in studies of cabbage. They then went on to show similar responses in lettuce, spinach, zucchini, sweet potatoes, carrots, and blueberries. Fruits and vegetables subjected to light-dark cycles at the right times suffered less insect damage than those subject to alternative storage regimes. One conclusion of the research is that it might make sense to harvest crops and freeze at specific times of day, when nutrients and valuable phytochemicals are at their peak. In their paper, the research team conclude, “These results suggest that new postharvest storage practices for vegetables and fruits that include clock entrainment may profoundly impact diverse metabolite accumulation in many crops and thereby overall edible crop health value. Additionally, clock-mediated behaviour of postharvest vegetables and fruits may be an important, yet previously unrecognised, aspect of nutrition or phytochemical analyses that should be included in future studies of plant crops.”

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