The full commercial potential of wild loquat [Uapaca kirkiana (Muell. Arg.)], a fruit that is widely used for food and income in parts of Africa, is restricted by its short shelf life and variability in postharvest quality. We have evaluated within and among tree variability in fruit size and color at harvest, and changes of color, soluble solids concentrations (SSC) and pulp deterioration during storage, of fruit harvested during the maturation period. The relationships between fruit shape, size, seed number and SSC of fruit harvested at the ripe stage of maturity was also assessed. Size and color of fruit within and among trees at harvest varied greatly within the same location on the same harvest date. The a* values (redness) were more variable than for other color attributes, reflecting a range of fruit colors from greenish to brown. During a 6 day storage period, fruit color lightness and yellowness decreased, while redness increased, and variation in color attributes decreased. Although fruit color intensified during storage, the SSC of fruit after ripening was linked more with fruit color at harvest, with mean concentrations ranging from 6.7% to 13.8% among trees. When fruit were harvested four weeks later and categorized by color at harvest, SSC varied from 11.8% in greenish-yellow fruit to 14.5% in browner fruit. Pulp deterioration of stored fruit harvested unripe was observed by 6 days. The SSC of fruit harvested when ripe was not significantly correlated with shape, size or seed number. These observations have important implications for germplasm selection and collection of U. kirkiana for domestication purposes. Timing of harvest and/or postharvest sorting of fruit is likely to reduce variability in SSC during the postharvest period.
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