In Europe, persimmon cultivation is located mainly in the Mediterranean Region where it was traditionally a minor crop, but has significantly expanded in the past few decades. In this area, persimmon production takes place chiefly in three countries: Italy, Israel, and Spain. Nowadays in the Mediterranean Region, persimmon production is based mostly on monovarietal cultivation. In Italy, almost 90% of persimmon production is based on ‘Kaki Tipo’. In Israel, ‘Triumph’, under the ‘Sharon’ trademark, is the main cultivar and consists of 95% of total persimmon production (Yesiloglu et al., 2018). In the past 20 years, Spain’s persimmon cultivation has grown the most and more quickly in this area, mainly because of the increased production of cultivar Rojo Brillante in the Valencian Community of Spain (Perucho, 2018).
Centralized production of a single cultivar is one of the main problems that the persimmon industry must face, as this implies a major commercial limitation given harvesting period concentration and the high phytosanitary risk. Therefore, one common objective for growers, marketers, and researchers is to introduce cultivars that allow the varietal range of persimmon to extend with certain success guarantees. It is noteworthy that the main cultivars presently grown in this area are astringent at harvest, which implies that fruit must be submitted to postharvest treatments to remove astringency before commercialization. Accordingly, the introduction of nonastringent cultivars is of special interest to simplify postharvest fruit handling.
In this context, a persimmon breeding program has been developed in Spain at the Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Agrarias (IVIA) since 2002 (Martínez-Calvo et al., 2018). Besides plant breeding to obtain new cultivars, a germplasm bank with cultivars from different geographical areas has been created as part of this program to evaluate their response under our Mediterranean agroclimatic conditions. It has been reported that the climate differences between persimmon-growing regions can lead to a wider variation in persimmon fruit maturity and quality at harvest (Soqanloo, 2015; Zanamwe, 2018).
Among the persimmon cultivars under study, a group of Japanese cultivars brought from the National Institute of Fruit Tree Science of Japan (NIFTS) stands out for being nonastringent cultivars and are, therefore, of much potential interest to extend the varietal range in this persimmon-growing area.
One of the main factors of agronomic behavior to condition commercial interest in the different cultivars is harvest time. The introduction of early and late cultivars can prolong the production period with subsequent profits for industry. Currently, the harvesting period of the main persimmon cultivars grown in the Mediterranean Region is mid-October to December. Therefore, the cultivars that reach commercial maturity earlier or later in the season must be considered of special interest for introduction purposes.
The selection of new cultivars involves having to evaluate their postharvest behavior to guarantee quality preservation and to respond to the high quality standards that consumers demand (Kader and Yahia, 2011). It is worth highlighting that persimmon with a soft texture is normally eaten in Asian countries, but is consumed when flesh is still firm in European countries. Thus, fruit firmness is one of the main quality parameters that needs to be preserved during its postharvest life. This may be a challenge as most persimmon cultivars are sensitive to chilling injuries when stored at low temperature. Flesh softening and flesh gelling are the main symptoms of this disorder (Besada and Salvador, 2018; Tessmer et al., 2019). Although a minimum firmness value is not established by current persimmon quality standards, according to previous studies, 20 N is considered the limiting firmness value from which fruit would not be acceptable for commercialization (Besada et al., 2010).
To evaluate the postharvest behavior of fruit, it is important to consider the different commercialization scenarios. The persimmon fruit produced in Mediterranean countries are usually commercialized in three different ways: a) sending fruit directly to domestic market at ambient temperature; b) transporting fruit to EU countries in refrigerated trucks at 5 °C; c) shipping fruit to overseas countries, like the United States, for which quarantine treatment is needed and fruit must be keep at low temperature (0 to 1 °C) for at least 21 d. The third scenario is that in which chilling injury and fruit firmness reduction are more likely to happen.
In this context, the objective of this study was to determine the harvest period and postharvest behavior under the Mediterranean agroclimatic conditions of six nonastringent Japanese persimmon cultivars belonging to the IVIA germplasm bank to select which ones are suitable for extending this region’s varietal range.
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