The effects of temperature and gas atmosphere on fresh produce physiology and quality have been extensively studied to the point where optimal storage conditions for most products are widely available (Anon., 2006; Gross et al., 2004). However, in the commercial environment, temperature variations occur as a result of logistic constraints (e.g., limited access to power at the location of the container storage unit), mechanical refrigeration breakdown, or management decisions (e.g., choice of nonrefrigerated vehicles over refrigerated vehicles). Another common temperature break scenario arises through the refrigerated storage of fruit in bins immediately after harvest. At a later time, the fruit are removed from the cool store, graded, and packed before shipping in a refrigerated environment to markets. Because the packing facility is often not refrigerated, the fruit is warmed and then recooled.
The use of controlled breaks in cool storage, either before (DeLong et al., 2004) or during storage (Watkins et al., 2000), has previously been investigated primarily as a means to minimize chilling injury development and hence extend the product storage life. This body of work provides evidence of increased ethylene production (Liu, 1986; Zhou et al., 2001) as a result of exposure to ambient temperatures (10 to 25 °C) for short time periods. Unintentional breaks in refrigeration differ from the application of intentionally applied cool storage breaks, because they tend to be sporadic and unpredictable in terms of magnitude (time and temperature). How these uncontrolled breaks in storage conditions affect product physiology and quality on return to refrigerated storage conditions has rarely been investigated.
The postharvest behavior of apples is well documented. Apples ripen with a typical climacteric ethylene and respiratory pattern during postharvest storage (Jobling and McGlasson, 1995; Larrigaudiere et al., 1997), whereas fruit quality changes progress for some time during the postclimacteric phase (Johnston et al., 2001a). Key quality changes for apples are changes in firmness (from hard to soft) and background color (from green to yellow). There is significant experimental evidence that both of these quality attributes are ethylene-sensitive (Golding et al., 2005; Saftner et al., 2003).
This study aimed to assess the effects of exposing apples stored at 0 °C in air to short-term periods at 20 °C on subsequent fruit physiology and quality both during the time of the exposure and on return to cool storage at 0 °C. This investigation was based around assessing fruit response to what would be considered the most extreme (yet still likely) breaks in the cool chain (3 d at 20 °C). This approach was taken to detect changes in the extreme situation with the assumption that if no significant changes occur in this scenario, then breaks of a lesser magnitude (in time or temperature) could also be assumed to have no effect. The influence of harvest maturity, time in storage before exposure, length of exposure to 20 °C, and multiple exposures to 20 °C on the responses of the fruit were also studied. ‘Cripps Pink’ (‘Pink Lady™’) apples were chosen as the cultivar in which to investigate these effects.
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Watkins, C.B. Bramlage, W.J. Brookfield, P.L. Reid, S.J. Weis, S.A. Alwan, T.F. 2000 Cultivar and growing region influence efficacy of warming treatments for amelioration of superficial scald development on apples after storagePostharv. Biol. Technol. 19 33 45
Zhou, H.-W. , Lurie, S. , Ben-Arie, R. , Dong, L. , Burd, S. , Weksler, A. & Lers, A. 2001 Intermittent warming of peaches reduces chilling injury by enhancing ethylene production and enzymes mediated by ethylene J. Hortic. Sci. Biotechnol. 76 620 628