Firmness of `Brightwell' Rabbiteye Blueberry in Response to Various Harvesting and Handling Procedures

in HortScience
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  • 1 Department of Horticulture, Georgia Station, Griffin, GA 30223
  • | 2 Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Georgia Station, Griffin, GA 30223
  • | 3 Department of Horticulture, Rural Development Center, Tifton, GA, 31793

Experiments were conducted during 1999 at the Univ. of Georgia Research Farm near Alapaha with the rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium ashei Reade) cultivar Brightwell to determine how various harvesting and handling tactics influenced firmness. The research was facilitated by availability of a mechanical harvester and a commercial packing line. Firmness was determined with a FirmTech II firmness tester on fruit samples before and after cold storage. Fruit harvesting methods included machine harvesting in bulk, hand harvesting in bulk, and hand harvesting directly into clam shell containers. Assessment of precooling effects were made by comparing firmness of fruit that were placed immediately over ice after harvest to fruit that remained at ambient temperatures for 24 hours after harvest. Additional measurements were made to discern the effects of grading and sorting on fruit firmness. The data overall indicated that `Brightwell' fruit firmness was “acceptable” regardless of the harvesting and handling methods experienced. However, there were considerable firmness losses caused by the various procedures. The greatest loss in fruit firmness (20% to 25%) was caused by machine harvesting. This was followed by a 15% to 18% loss of firmness due to grading and sorting. Immediate cooling of fruit after harvest resulted in only a 8% to 12% increase in firmness as compared to keeping fruit at ambient temperature for 24 hours. These findings should be useful to growers and packers in targeting segments of their operations that can be manipulated to improve berry firmness and quality for fresh market sales.

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