Preharvest development and postharvest disappearance of watercore in `Fuji' apples (Malus ×domestica Borkh.) from a northern (Hawke's Bay, latitude 39° south) and southern (Otago, latitude 45° south) region of New Zealand were compared. A new method for quantifying watercore was developed. A photocopy was taken of the symptoms after each fruit was cut in half through the equator, and then the area of affected flesh (photocopies black) was measured using morphometric methods and compared to the area of unaffected flesh (photocopies white). Watercore was more severe and developed earlier in the season in Otago than in Hawke's Bay. In Otago, a block-type watercore predominated, disorder symptoms initially appearing in the tissues located at the junction of two carpels, while in Hawke's Bay a radial-type of watercore predominated, initially appearing in the tissues surrounding the coreline vascular bundles. Regression analysis identified that orchard and harvest date accounted for most of the differences in watercore symptoms and that the initial appearance of low levels of watercore was the best predictor that fruit would start to develop commercially significant levels of watercore. Incorporation of background color, internal ethylene concentration, starch pattern index, and firmness only slightly improved the regression coefficient. Watercore disappeared from the flesh during storage of fruit from both regions. Fruit from early harvests had the least severe symptoms, and the highest rates of watercore disappearance during storage. In fruit with more severe symptoms at harvest, its disappearance during storage was associated with an increase in fruit volume and air space, which occurred despite continuing mass loss. We suggest that during storage, the extracellular fluid associated with watercore symptoms is absorbed into the cells, and thus drives the increase in fruit volume.
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