Abscission of cluster tomatoes commonly limits product marketability in the retail environment. Ripening and exogenous ethylene exposure are assumed to play important roles in cluster tomato fruit abscission. `Clarance' and `DRW7229' fruit harvested at either mature green or partially ripened stages did not abscise during storage for 2 weeks at 20 °C and 95% to 100% relative humidity (RH), although respiration and ethylene production indicated that all fruit reached the postclimacteric stage. Exogenous ethylene (1 or 10 ppm) exposure for 8 days at 20 °C and 95% to 100% RH also did not induce fruit abscission for either cultivar, although pedicel and sepal yellowing were observed. Fruit from clusters stored at 20 °C and 20% or 50% RH abscised if sepal shrivel became noticeable before the fruit reached the full red ripeness stage, while no abscission occurred in fruit that reached the full red stage prior to the appearance of sepal shrivel; no fruit stored in 95% to 100% RH abscised. Fruit that ripened prior to the appearance of sepal shrivel were “plugged” (i.e., tissue underlying the stem scar was pulled out) if manual fruit detachment from the pedicel was attempted. These results indicate that there is an interaction of water loss and fruit ripening in promoting abscission zone development in cluster tomatoes.
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