Science Into Practice - Herb growth and shelf life

Low light levels induce the growth of longer, weaker stems and petioles in plants, a condition known as etiolation. Such plants show reduced shelf life and may fail to meet buyer specifications and customer expectations. Etiolation can be an issue in pot herb production, so the HDC commissioned project PE 015 to investigate practical solutions.

Literature indicates that under drought, alkaline or high-salinity conditions, plants respond by reducing growth via systems involving alkalinisation of xylem sap, hormone signalling via abscisic acid and ethylene and other physical and physiological changes such as stomatal closure. Professor Kettlewell and Andrew Beacham of HAU investigated the effect of using high-pH and high-salinity treatments.

Applied as drenches, high-salinity treatments were found to be effective in reducing petiole length in flat leaf parsley and coriander. The overall biomass of plants was reduced at times by the saline treatments, suggesting more compact growth. Overall effectiveness and phytotoxicity of the treatments appeared to depend on environmental conditions and treatment regime. Phytotoxicity was very low or absent in winter months but increased into spring.

The project demonstrated that saline treatments have potential to reduce etiolation with no significant phytotoxic effects. Further work will be required to determine optimum treatment regimes across a range of herbs. However, this work may provide growers with additional control mechanisms to improve shelf life and plant quality in the future.

Horticultural Development Company

For details on all HDC activity, visit

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Read These Next

What should growers make of the Government's migration report?

What should growers make of the Government's migration report?

By holding out the "possibility" of a seasonal agricultural workers scheme (SAWS), the Migration Advisory Committee's (MAC) long-awaited final report, published this week, makes an exception for fresh produce amid its wider call for a shift away from low-skill immigration.

Tractors: market roundup

Tractors: market roundup

Manufacturers are working to provide solutions to many challenges. Sally Drury looks at their newest models.

What does the Agriculture Bill mean for growers?

What does the Agriculture Bill mean for growers?

The publication of the Agriculture Bill this week formally kick-starts the Government's plans to implement a "green Brexit" for farming, the area of the economy most impacted by the UK's withdrawal from the EU from next March.

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +

Horticulture Week Top UK FRUIT PRODUCERS

See our exclusive RANKING of UK Fruit Producers by annual turnover plus the FULL REPORT AND ANALYSIS.

Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Pest & Disease Tracker bulletin 

The latest pest and disease alerts, how to treat them, plus EAMU updates, sent direct to your inbox.

Sign up here

Professor Geoffrey Dixon

GreenGene International chair Geoff Dixon on the business of fresh produce production

Read Professor Geoffrey Dixon