665 Opportunities in Using Biotechnology to Maintain Postharvest Quality and Safety of Fresh Produce

in HortScience
Author: Adel A. Kader1
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  • 1 Department of Pomology, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA

Biological factors involved in deterioration of fresh horticultural perishables include respiration rate; ethylene production and action; compositional changes associated with color, texture, flavor (taste and aroma), and nutritional quality; growth and development; transpiration; physiological breakdown; physical damage; and pathological breakdown. There are many opportunities to modify these inherent factors and to develop genotypes that have lower respiration and ethylene production rates, less sensitivity to ethylene, slower softening rate, improved flavor quality, enhanced nutritional quality (vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and phytonutrients including carotenoids and polyphenols), reduced browning potential, decreased susceptibility to chilling injury, and increased resistance to postharvest decay-causing pathogens. In some cases the goals may be contradictory, such as lowering phenolic content and activities of phenylalanine ammonialyase and/or polyphenoloxidase to reduce browning potential vs. increasing polyphenols as antioxidants with positive effects on human health. Another example is reducing ethylene production vs. increasing flavor volatiles production in fruits. Overall, priority should be given to attaining and maintaining good flavor and nutritional quality to meet consumer demands. Extension of postharvest life should be based on flavor and texture rather than appearance only. Introducing resistance to physiological disorders and/or decay-causing pathogens will reduce the use of postharvest fungicides and other chemicals by the produce industry. Changes in surface structure of some commodities can help in reducing microbial contamination, which is a very important safety factor. It is not likely that biotechnology-based changes in fresh flowers, fruits, and vegetables will lessen the importance of careful and expedited handling, proper temperature and relative humidity maintenance, and effective sanitation procedures throughout the postharvest handling system.

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