Sweet cultivars of Capsicum annuum L. are widely cultivated throughout the world because of their nutritional value, flavor, and color. However, bell peppers are susceptible to chilling injury (CI) below 7 °C (Paull, 1990) depending on cultivar and maturity (Meir et al., 1995). The primary CI symptoms are surface pitting, calyx discoloration, and shriveling resulting from moisture loss (Hardenburg et al., 1986; Lin et al., 1993). Physiological manifestations of CI such as increased ethylene production, respiration, and electrolyte leakage (EL) usually precede or occur concomitantly with appearance of visible symptoms (Purvis, 2002).
Peppers have been classified as nonclimacteric fruit (Lurie et al., 1986). However, the pattern of respiration and ethylene production are dependent on stage of ripeness and cultivar. ‘Chooraehong’ hot peppers (Gross et al., 1986) and ‘Maor’ bell peppers (Lurie and Ben-Yehoshua, 1986) show a climacteric respiratory pattern during ripening. Ethylene production and respiration were higher in ripe red peppers than in any other maturity stages (Lurie et al., 1986).
Efforts have been made to elucidate the primary factors that induce peel pitting. Alférez and Burns (2004) found that water status of the fruits played a significant role in development of postharvest peel pitting. Previous research showed that immature green fruits were more resistant to CI than breaker and ripe fruits in ‘Fortune’ mandarin (Lafuente et al., 1997) and grapefruits (Kawada, 1980), whereas mature green fruit developed CI symptoms and appeared to be more sensitive to low temperatures than red-ripe pepper fruit (Lin et al., 1993). However, little additional information has been documented on the relationship between the ripeness stage (especially between mature green and breaker stage) of bell pepper and chilling sensitivity, and no one has conducted anatomical studies of chilling symptoms at different ripeness stages. Thus, the objective of this study was to determine the effect of ripeness stage on CI development and to find a relationship between symptoms of CI and peel pitting in bell peppers during cold storage.
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