While we tend to think of postharvest volatiles as nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide and ethylene, harvested products are actually exposed to thousands of volatile compounds. These volatiles are derived from both organic and inorganic sources, evolving from storage room walls, insulation, wrapping materials, combusted products, plants, animals, and a myriad of other sources. Plants alone manufacture a diverse array of secondary metabolizes (estimated to be as many as 400,000) of which many display some degree of volatility. We tend to be cognizant of volatiles when they represent distinct odors. A number of volatiles, however, have significant biological activity, and under appropriate conditions may effect postharvest quality. An overview of biologically active volatile compounds and their relation to postharvest quality will be presented.
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