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Steven A. Sargent, Adrian D. Berry, Jeffrey G. Williamson, and James W. Olmstead

Three southern highbush blueberry cultivars (Vaccinium corymbosum hybrids) were mechanically harvested (MH) or hand-harvested (HH) and commercially packed before storage for 14 days at 1 °C in two successive years. MH fruit were softer, had lower ratings for overall appearance, and lost up to 20% more fresh weight than HH fruit after 14 days storage. MH ‘Meadowlark’ had fewer soft fruit (<35%) during storage than either ‘Sweetcrisp’ or ‘Farthing’; however, the latter two cultivars had lower incidences of shrivel and weight loss. Fruit in the 2010 season were more susceptible to bruising than those from the 2009 season; however, soluble solids content (SSC), total titratable acidity (TTA), and ascorbic acid concentration remained constant during storage and between seasons. ‘Meadowlark’ had the highest sugar to acid ratio (25.0). Successful implementation of MH of southern highbush blueberries for fresh market will only be commercially feasible if harvest impacts are further reduced.

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Camille Esmel*, John R. Duval, E.H. Simonne, and Steven A. Sargent

Strawberries are a high value commodity with a short shelf life. Florida is the largest producer of winter strawberries in the United States with 2,790 hectares of production, 90% are located in Hillsborough County. Many Florida growers apply additional calcium (Ca) as a foliar spray despite the lack of conclusive evidence of an increase in fruit quality or yield. It is believed that additional Ca will improve cell wall integrity through Ca linkages with pectins with in the cell wall and increase fruit firmness. Preharvest applications of calcium chloride have shown to delay the ripening of strawberry fruit and mold development. The objectives of this two year study were to determine the effects of Ca on yield, growth, and postharvest quality of strawberry when applied to the soil or as a foliar spray. `Sweet Charlie' strawberry plants were grown on a Seffner fine sand in Dover, Fla. The experimental design was a split-block replicated four times with soil and foliar Ca applications. Main plots consisted of a broadcast preplant incorporation of gypsum (calcium sulfate) 0 kg·ha-1, 36.7 kg·ha-1, and 73.4 kg·ha-1. Sub-plots consisted of foliar applications of 400 mg·L-1 Ca from calcium sulfate, 400 and 800 mg·L-1 Ca from calcium chloride and a water control applied weekly throughout the 2002-03 and 2003-04 growing season. Yield data was collected twice weekly through out the growing season. Fruits were graded for quality based upon size, visual appearance of pathogens degradation, frost/water damage, and misshapen form. Calcium content was determined for leaves, fruit, and calyxes in January and March. Postharvest quality evaluations of pH, titratable acidy, soluble solids, and firmness (Instron 4411) were determined in January and March.

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Bruno Casamali, Jeffrey G. Williamson, Alisson P. Kovaleski, Steven A. Sargent, and Rebecca L. Darnell

The profitability of the fresh market blueberry industry in many areas is constrained by the extensive use and cost of soil amendments, high labor requirements for hand harvesting, and the inefficiencies of mechanical harvesters. Vaccinium arboreum Marsh is a wild species that has wide soil adaptation and monopodial growth habit. It has the potential to be used as a blueberry rootstock, expanding blueberry production to marginal soil and improving the mechanical harvesting efficiency of cultivated blueberry. The objectives of this research were to compare yield, berry quality, and postharvest fruit storage of own-rooted vs. grafted southern highbush blueberry (SHB) cultivars (Farthing and Meadowlark) grown on amended vs. nonamended soil and either hand or mechanical harvested. Yields of hand-harvested SHB during the first two fruiting years were generally greater in own-rooted plants grown on amended soil compared with own-rooted plants on nonamended soil or grafted plants on either soil treatment. However, by the second fruiting year, hand-harvest yields of grafted SHB were ≈80% greater than own-rooted plants when grown in nonamended soil. Yields of mechanical-harvested SHB grafted on V. arboreum and grown in either soil treatment were similar to yields of mechanical-harvested own-rooted plants in amended soil the second fruiting year, and greater than yields of own-rooted plants in non-amended soil. In general, mechanical harvesting reduced marketable yield ≈40% compared with hand harvesting. However, grafted plants reduced ground losses during harvest by ≈35% compared with own-rooted plants for both cultivars. Mechanical-harvested berries had a greater total soluble solids:total titratable acidity ratio (TSS:TTA) than hand-harvested berries, and berries harvested toward the end of the harvest season had a greater TSS:TTA than those from early-season harvests. As postharvest storage time increased, berry appearance ratings decreased and berry softness and shriveling increased, particularly in mechanical-harvested compared with hand-harvested berries. Firmness of mechanical-harvested berries decreased during storage, whereas firmness of hand-harvested berries remained relatively stable. However, fruit quality at harvest and during postharvest storage was unaffected by V. arboreum rootstocks or lack of pine bark amendment. This study suggests that using V. arboreum as a rootstock in an alternative blueberry production system has the potential to decrease the use of soil amendments and increase mechanical harvesting efficiency.

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Marcos D. Ferreira, Jeffrey K. Brecht, Steven A. Sargent, and Craig K. Chandler

Hydrocooling was evaluated as an alternative to forced-air cooling for strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa) fruit. `Sweet Charlie' strawberries were cooled by forced-air and hydrocooling to 4 °C and held in different storage regimes in three different trials. Quality attributes, including surface color, firmness, weight loss, soluble solids, and ascorbic acid content, pH and total titratable acidity, were evaluated at the full ripe stage. Fruit hydrocooled to 4 °C and stored at different temperatures for 8 or 15 days showed overall better quality than forced-air cooled fruit, with significant differences in epidermal color, weight loss, and incidence and severity of decay. Fruit stored wrapped in polyvinylchloride (PVC) film after forced-air cooling or hydrocooling retained better color, lost less weight, and retained greater firmness than fruit stored uncovered, but usually had increased decay. There is potential for using hydrocooling as a cooling method for strawberries.

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Luther C. Carson, Monica Ozores-Hampton, Kelly T. Morgan, and Steven A. Sargent

Controlled-release fertilizer (CRF) use is a best management practice that may reduce nitrogen (N) loss to the environment. Several factors affect CRF nutrient release; therefore, including CRF in a fertilization program may have challenges. Thus, the study objective was to evaluate the effects of CRF N rate, source, release duration, and placement on seepage-irrigated marketable tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) yield, leaf tissue N (LTN) concentration, post-season soil N content, and postharvest fruit firmness and color. There were two soluble fertilizer (SF) controls [University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences (UF/IFAS) (224 kg·ha−1) and grower standard (280 kg·ha−1)] and six and seven CRF treatments (alone or in combination with SF) in Fall 2011 and 2012, respectively. Cumulative rainfall totaled 31.4 and 37.4 cm during the 2011 and 2012 seasons with average air temperatures of 22.4 and 22.1 °C, respectively. Soil temperatures ranged from 14.2 to 40.6 °C in 2011 and 11.1 to 36.6 °C in 2012 with a strong correlation (r = 0.95) to air temperature. Controlled-release urea resulted in 7.5% to 17.9% plant mortality in 2011 and reduced yields in 2012 compared with CRF N–phosphorus–potassium (NPK) at a similar N rate. LTN concentrations were above or within the sufficiency range for all treatments. In 2011, using CRF-urea at 190 kg·ha−1 N produced similar marketable tomato yield in all fruit categories except season total large tomatoes, which produced significantly fewer marketable tomatoes with 13.5 Mg·ha−1 compared with UF/IFAS and grower standard with 17.9 and 14.2 Mg·ha−1, respectively. In 2012, CRF-NPK (168 kg·ha−1 N) significantly reduced first and second harvest combined large and season total large and total marketable yields compared with the UF/IFAS rate and grower standard treatments. Marketable yield was not significantly affected by CRF (urea or NPK) release duration, but CRF-NPK 180-day release duration significantly increased residual soil N in 2012 compared with CRF-NPK 120-day release with 74.2 and 34.3 kg·ha−1 N, respectively. Rototilling CRF-urea into the bed, which was only evaluated in 2011, significantly increased total season yields compared with CRF-urea broadcast in row before bedding (BIR) with 43.0 and 46.5 Mg·ha−1, respectively. There were no significant yield differences when 50% or 75% of the total N was CRF placed in the hybrid fertilizer system, which is a system with CRF placed BIR with the remaining N as SF-N banded on the bed shoulders. No significant differences among treatments were found for total residual soil N in 2011; however, higher soil N remained in CRF (NPK and urea) treatments compared with SF treatments in 2012, except for Treatment 9. No significant differences were found among treatments for fruit firmness or color in 2011 or 2012. CRF-NPK at 190 to 224 kg·ha−1 N with a 120-day release may be recommended as a result of similar or greater first harvest and total season marketable yields compared with IFAS-recommended rates and low residual soil N. Further research must be conducted to explore CRF placement and percentage urea composition, although use of the hybrid system or rototilling may be recommended.

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Raina L. Allen, Benjamin R. Warren, Douglas L. Archer, Keith R. Schneider, and Steven A. Sargent

Multi-state outbreaks of salmonellosis due to the consumption of contaminated fresh tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) have recently occurred in the United States. This study investigated the survival of a five-serovar (serotype) Salmonella cocktail artificially inoculated onto tomato and packing line surfaces when held at various temperature and relative humidity (RH) combinations over 28 days. Packinghouse surfaces included stainless steel, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), sponge rollers, conveyor belts, and unfinished oak wood surfaces. Packinghouse climates were generated to simulate conditions in Florida during late spring (30 °C/80% RH) and fall/winter (20 °C/60% RH) months. Additionally, survival of Salmonella on tomatoes in standard ripening room conditions (20 °C/90% RH) was evaluated. Recovery of inocula was by a vigorous shake/hand rub method. After 28 days, Salmonella populations remained detectable on tomato surfaces regardless of environmental conditions. Inoculated Salmonella populations tested at spring conditions declined to undetectable levels on all packing line materials by day 11, with the exception of the unfinished oak, which reached undetectable levels by day 21. In contrast, inoculated Salmonella populations tested at fall/winter conditions declined to undetectable levels on sponge rollers and conveyor belts by day 7 and day 21, respectively. Stainless steel, PVC, and wood surfaces supported the survival of detectable populations of Salmonella over the 28-day sampling period. Results of this study demonstrate the potential for Salmonella to persist on tomato and packing line surfaces under common environmental conditions.

Open access

Elena E. Lon Kan, Steven A. Sargent, Daniel J. Cantliffe, Adrian D. Berry, and Nicole L. Shaw

Datil hot pepper (Capsicum chinense) has potential for increased production due to its unique, spicy flavor and aroma. However, few reports have been published related to postharvest handling characteristics. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of harvest maturity on fruit quality under simulated commercial storage conditions. ‘Wanda’ datil pepper plants were grown hydroponically under protected culture. Fruit were harvested at yellow and orange maturity stages, placed in vented clamshell containers, and stored at 2, 7, or 10 °C for 21 days. Peppers harvested at yellow stage maintained greater quality than orange peppers during storage at all temperatures. Marketable fruit after 21 days for peppers harvested at the yellow stage was 94% (2 °C), 88% (7 °C), and 91% (10 °C); that for orange-stage peppers was 68%, 74%, and 82% for the same respective temperatures. No chilling injury (CI) symptoms were observed in these tests. Initial pepper moisture content was 90%, decreasing only slightly during 21 days of storage; weight loss ranged from 2% to 8%. Soluble solids content (SSC) was greater for peppers harvested at the orange stage (9.5%) than for those at yellow stage (7.8%). Neither harvest maturity nor storage temperature affected total titratable acidity (TTA; 0.13%) or pH (5.3). Respiration rate varied with temperature but not by harvest maturity and ranged from 12 to 25 mg·kg−1 per hour after 8 days of storage. Peppers harvested orange contained double the amount of total carotenoids as yellow fruit. Carotenoid content for yellow and orange peppers was 58 and 122 µg·g−1, respectively. Capsaicinoid content ranged from 1810 to 4440 µg·g−1 and was slightly greater for orange-harvested peppers. Datil peppers harvested at the yellow stage and stored in vented clamshell containers had better quality than peppers harvested at the orange stage after 21 days at 2 °C.

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Abbie J. Fox, David Del Pozo-Insfran, Joon Hee Lee, Steven A. Sargent, and Stephen T. Talcott

Greenhouse-grown bell pepper (Capsicum annuum L. `Robusta') were harvested at five stages of maturation (10% red to full red) in early winter 2002 (Expt. 1) and at two stages (10% red and full red) in early Spring 2002 (Expt. 2). The fruit were subsequently stored at 20 °C in a continuous-flow chamber consisting of either 100 μL·L–1 ethylene (balance air) or air-only (control) at 90% relative humidity (RH). Individual fruit were removed from the chambers upon reaching full red color, and stored at –30 °C until physicochemical analyses were conducted. Harvest maturity, and ethylene exposure had no appreciable effect on pulp soluble solids content, total titratable acidity or pH. Exposure to ethylene hastened ripening time compared to the air control but was independent of fruit maturity at harvest. Fruit exposed to ethylene reached full-red color 6.4 days (Expt. 1) and 4 days (Expt. 2) earlier than air-only fruit, respectively. There were no significant phytochemical and antioxidant differences noted for total carotenoids, total ascorbic acid, and soluble phenolics at various maturity stages due to ethylene exposure. Appreciable differences were observed between the two experiments for phytochemicals and antioxidants, as bell peppers from the latter experiment contained at least twice the concentrations of phytochemicals and antioxidant capacity as those from the first experiment. Differences in these parameters between experiments were attributed to environmental factors such as average temperature, day length, and light intensity. Ethylene was demonstrated to be an effective postharvest treatment for accelerating color change in this bell pepper cultivar, permitting earlier harvest without altering phytochemical synthesis rates.

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Celso L. Moretti, Steven A. Sargent, Donald J. Huber, and Rolf Puschmann

Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum L.) fruits, cv. Solarset, were harvested at the mature-green stage and treated with 50 μL/L ethylene at 20C. Breaker fruits (<10% red coloration) were dropped from 40 cm onto a smooth, solid surface and held along with undropped fruits at 20°C and 85% relative humidity. At table-ripe stage, pericarp, placental, and locular tissue were individually excised and analyzed for total carotenoids, total soluble sugars, soluble solids content, titratable acidity, density (locule tissue), polygalacturonase activity, and electrolyte efflux (pericarp tissue). Internal bruising caused by impact forces significantly affected pericarp and locule tissues, but not placental tissue. For bruised locule tissue, total carotenoids content decreased by 37.1%, vitamin C content by 15.6%, and titratable acidity by 15.3% as compared to control. However, density was increased by 3.0%. For bruised pericarp tissue, vitamin C content decreased by 16.5%, while polygalacturonase activity and electrolyte efflux increased by 33.3% and 24.8%, respectively. The development of abnormal ripening following an impact was confined to locule and pericarp tissues and appears to be related to the disruption of cellular structure and stimulation of enzymic activity.

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Celso L. Moretti, Steven A. Sargent, Donald J. Huber, Adonai G. Calbo, and Rolf Puschmann

`Solar Set' tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) were harvested at the mature-green stage of development and treated with 50 μL·L-1 ethylene at 20 °C. Breaker-stage fruit were dropped from 40 cm onto a solid surface to induce internal bruising and held along with undropped fruit at 20 °C. At the ripe stage, pericarp, locule, and placental tissues were analyzed for soluble sugars, vitamin C, pigments, titratable acidity, soluble solids content, pericarp electrolyte leakage, extractable polygalacturonase activity, and locule tissue consistency. Bruising significantly affected chemical composition and physical properties of pericarp and locule tissues, but not placental tissue. For bruised locule tissue, carotenoids, vitamin C, and titratable acidity were 37%, 15%, and 15%, lower, respectively, than unbruised fruit. For bruised pericarp tissue, vitamin C content was 16% lower than for unbruised tissue, whereas bruising increased electrolyte leakage and extractable polygalacturonase activity by 25% and 33%, respectively. Evidence of abnormal ripening following impact bruising was confined to locule and pericarp tissues and may be related to the disruption of cell structure and altered enzyme activity.