Ethylene has a wide variety of potential agricultural uses.
This is true, at least in part, because of the numerous ways ethylene-regulated plant processes may be manipulated.
It is possible to apply ethylene as the gas, as a substrate converted to the gas or as a substance which stimulates the plant to synthesize the gas.
Plant functions in which ethylene plays a regulatory role may be promoted or inhibited by manipulating either the synthesis or action of endogenous ethylene.
Finally, there are also means of removing ethylene from plants or plant products.
The varied effects of ethylene include: growth inhibition; growth promotion; root initiation; fruit degreening; flower initiation and prevention; modification of flower sex; fruit growth stimulation; fruit ripening; storage product hydrolysis; pigment synthesis promotion and inhibition; latex secretion promotion; modification of flavor; participation in expression of plant disease symptoms; promotion of leaf, flower, and fruit abscission and dehiscence; release of seed and bud dormancy; release of apical dominance.
Additional effects of less apparent agricultural value include: modification of geotropic behavior; tissue proliferation and formative growth; leaf epinasty; leaf movement inhibition; respiratory changes.
In addition, CEPA, an ethylene substrate, has been shown to promote tillering and stem stiffness of small grains and modest yield increases of some crops.
Ethylene is a natural regulator of some of these processes in addition to producing them when applied to the plant.
At each stage of crop production, ranging from propagation to harvest and handling, there are plant functions subject to modification by the presence or absence of ethylene.
Development of agricultural practices based on manipulation of ethylene physiology depends on the successful coupling of the principles of ethylene physiology to the peculiarities of a particular crop and its environment.
Trends in agronomic practices and the low residue status of ethylene suggest that efforts to achieve successful regulatory practices will be in the best interest of both the producer and the consumer of agricultural products.