Susceptibility of stone fruits to chilling injury (CI) depends on genotype, maturity, storage temperature, length of storage, and preharvest and postharvest manipulation (Lurie and Crisosto, 2005). CI symptoms include lack of juiciness (flesh mealiness or woolliness), FB, black pit cavity, flesh translucency (gel breakdown), red pigment accumulation (bleeding), lack of flavor, and failure to ripen (Lurie and Crisosto, 2005). Nectarine FB is a genetic disorder that can be triggered by a combination of factors such as cultural practices (soil fertilization, irrigation management), postharvest temperature, and storage and shipping processes (Crisosto et al., 1999; Mitchell, 1987). Mineral nutrition is critical for tree fruit growth and production (Johnson and Uriu, 1989), but little is known about the role of nutrition in cold storage disorders, CI expression in fresh cut fruit, and fruit consumption by consumers. Fruit nutrition research has mainly focused on optimizing tree growth and yield with limited attention paid to its effect on stone fruit quality (Crisosto et al., 1997). Studies on apples (Bramlage et al., 1980; Crisosto et al., 1997) and plums (Kotze et al., 1987) reported an influence of nutrient deficiencies on internal breakdown. Therefore, further research on the influence of preharvest manipulations such as mineral nutrition, irrigation, and cropload on stone fruit postharvest quality and cold storage performance is needed.
Fruit tissue enzymatic browning is a consequence of oxidative degradation of phenolic compounds by polyphenol oxidase (PPO), which leads to production of quinones that polymerize rapidly to form brown-colored products (Kader and Chordas, 1984). The concentration of phenolic compounds, the activity of PPO, and the presence of available oxygen are strongly related to enzymatic browning (Mayer and Harel, 1979). Phenolic composition and concentration are important contributors to fruit antioxidant capacity, which is highly desirable, because it provides several benefits to human health (Robards et al., 1999). In addition, phenolic compounds, in combination with other factors, can improve brown rot (Monilinia fructicola) resistance in peaches by acting directly on cutinase and preventing the penetration of this fungal infection within the fruit flesh (Bostock et al., 1999).
Flesh browning can be triggered by fruit bruising; by exposure to oxygen in fresh cut, sliced, and pulped forms; or by thawing fruit after prolonged freezing. In addition, lye-peeling of canned fruit also strongly influences the browning potential of the fruit (Vamosvigyazo, 1981). Thus, fruit handling and processing are critical factors underlying browning potential, because these activities can damage cell structure. Enzymatic FB is a major component of postharvest CI problems in stone fruit. It is also a commercial problem, because browning can affect fruit quality in fresh or canned forms. Any enzymatic browning is a major industrial concern because the altered sensory and visual characteristics are unattractive to consumers in addition to the quality loss resulting from decreased concentrations of phenolic compounds. It is highly desirable, therefore, to have fruit with high concentrations of phenolic compounds but low postharvest FB during and after cold storage (Ogundiwin et al., 2008). A high concentration of antioxidants such as ascorbic acid is also highly desirable in fruits, because it may prevent some degree of enzymatic browning by inhibiting PPO activity (Teisson, 1972). Furthermore, quinone compounds can be reduced by ascorbic acids, regenerating phenolics and inhibiting browning.
Some stone fruit species are more susceptible to FB than others. Some peach and nectarine cultivars from California breeding programs are highly susceptible to FB, reducing their storage potential (Crisosto et al., 2008, 2009). This study relates nutrient deficiencies to FB and its precursors phenolic concentration, PPO activity, and antioxidant concentration in a high FB, susceptible cultivar. We hypothesize that low concentrations of nutrients and phosphorus (P) will lead to greater FB by modifying the membrane permeability to make browning reaction substrates more readily available.
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