Ethylene as a Plant Hormone | 4 Important Points

Ethylene as a Plant Hormone | 4 Important Points

Table of Contents

What Is Ethylene And How Does It Impact Your Plants?


Ethylene is a naturally occurring plant hormone present in almost all plant life. It functions as a signal for how quickly a plant should grow and affects the ripening of fruits and vegetables. Please find out about this vital chemical, its effects on plants, and how to reduce ethylene in your garden.


What is Ethylene?


Ethylene is a gas molecule that is often classified as a hormone. It travels from the leaves of plants to the roots and into flowers, where it stimulates pollination. This means that ethylene is necessary for the fruit to ripen on its own. However, ethylene can also negatively impact plants when there is too much of it in the air or if it gets into an enclosed space like a greenhouse or houseplant. It can also be hazardous if it leaks out of a container not designed to handle gaseous ethylene.


What is the Best Way to Remove Ethylene?. If you are concerned that your household plants are producing excessive ethylene, you first want to confirm that this is indeed the problem. Once you know that ethylene production is an issue, there are several ways of dealing with it: Increase ventilation in the greenhouse or house to increase airflow and slow the buildup of ethylene. It is also helpful to use plastic sheeting or fabric to cover the ventilation openings, which will trap most of the ethylene, effectively reducing its production. You can also use a fan and air circulation system that only circulates air through the greenhouse during daylight hours, increasing the amount of light available for plants, keeping them more relaxed, and reducing ethylene production.


Increase CO2 levels in the garden using DIY methods such as fertilizer injection systems, gas castings, or CO2 cylinders. The best way to increase CO2 in the air is to inject it into the soil. By mixing water, fertilizer, and CO2 in a water-CO2 solution, you are creating a nutrient solution with carbon dioxide and nutrients for plant growth. You can use this to hydrate your plants or spray on top of your existing soil.


How Ethylene Affects Plants


Ethylene is a natural hormone produced by plants. It is an important plant hormone that regulates growth and development, ripening of fruit and seeds, flower formation, and senescence (aging). Some plants release ethylene to increase fruit production, while others respond to ethylene to self-destruct. A variety of factors can trigger the release of ethylene; these will be discussed later.


The purpose of ethylene is to regulate plant growth. In this role, ethylene is often called an “anti-parasite” hormone and is believed to be one of the reasons for the evolution of all plants. Since the first species appeared on Earth approximately 500 million years ago (mya), plants have evolved a wide range of defenses against predators, including other plants, animals, microbes, and pathogens. The defenses most directly controlled by ethylene are:

  • The initiation and promotion of plant senescence.
  • The release of secondary metabolites.
  • The increased production of storage carbohydrates.

Ethylene is also involved in stress responses such as freezing tolerance and induced systemic resistance (ISR). The molecular mechanism that mediates the effect of ethylene on plant growth is not fully understood. What is known is that several proteins and other small signaling molecules have been identified as being involved in mediating ethylene action. The most probable candidate is an ethylene-binding protein (EBP), a transcription factor regulating stomatal opening in response to ethylene. EBP is also thought to regulate the expression of genes involved in producing secondary metabolites, including defense and growth-promoting compounds. Small molecules such as auxins and cytokinins have also been shown to act as ethylene receptors, although their role in controlling plant responses is less understood.


Understanding ethylene levels in plants


Ethylene is a gas emitted by plants, but not all plants emit ethylene. There are two types of ethylene: the natural ethylene released by leaves and stems when they are exposed to light and synthetic ethylene created from the burning of fossil fuels or other chemical processes. When there is too much ethylene in the air around plants, it starts to cause problems for the plant. It is also possible for plants to have too much ethylene, which can cause a plant to turn yellow or brown.


Ethylene may be used as a stress hormone in plants, but the levels of stress hormones depend on the weather conditions and the type of stress being put on the plant. When there is no stress, or when there are low-stress levels, ethylene levels will remain low. However, when there is either too much sunlight or too high temperatures, the ethylene present in plants will turn on and cause problems. Some plants can have too much ethylene, including tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, potatoes, and strawberries. When harvested, these vegetables all have a high water content, so it is easy for the ethylene to build up in them. Because of this, if there is too much ethylene in the air around these vegetables, they will start to turn yellow or brown even before they are harvested. If you are growing plants that contain high levels of ethylene, then you may want to use an ethylene inhibitor. It is essential to the health of your plants that they have enough airflow around them. If they do not, they will not be able to send out the signals needed for them to grow healthy and strong.


Ethylene and plant growth


Ethylene is a gas, and it has a positive impact on plant growth. It is emitted by plants when they are in rapid growth or stress. Too much ethylene can inhibit a plant’s growth, but if the gas level is too low, the plant will not grow. When plants are exposed to high levels of ethylene, they will begin to ripen and stop producing nutrients needed by other plants. This is why farmers use ethylene gas to ripen fruit or vegetables. Investigators have found that when potatoes are exposed to high levels of ethylene gas, their growth rate decreases by as much as 60 percent. In this condition, the potato plants do not produce enough carbohydrates for human consumption, and more than half of the green leaf area wilts away. At this stage, the potatoes begin to develop greenish-brown spots. In some cases, the thistles may not be able to ripen because of this condition.


This is why farmers use ethylene gas to ripen fruit or vegetables. Investigators have found that when potatoes are exposed to high levels of ethylene gas, their growth rate decreases by as much as 60 percent.




Ethylene is a gas released as a part of the plant’s respiration process. When there is too much of it, more than what the plant needs to continue to grow, it causes buds and flowers to stop developing. It is eliminated as a plant flower. If you want to grow compact buds, then the best course of action is to increase the amount of light that your plants are getting. Unfortunately, I don’t know how much light it takes for them to flower, but here’s what I know: you should not raise the light on your plants too high.



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