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Stanley J. Kays

While we tend to think of postharvest volatiles as nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide and ethylene, harvested products are actually exposed to thousands of volatile compounds. These volatiles are derived from both organic and inorganic sources, evolving from storage room walls, insulation, wrapping materials, combusted products, plants, animals, and a myriad of other sources. Plants alone manufacture a diverse array of secondary metabolizes (estimated to be as many as 400,000) of which many display some degree of volatility. We tend to be cognizant of volatiles when they represent distinct odors. A number of volatiles, however, have significant biological activity, and under appropriate conditions may effect postharvest quality. An overview of biologically active volatile compounds and their relation to postharvest quality will be presented.

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Stanley J. Kays and Yan Wang

Using the sweetpotato as a model, we identified precursors of critical flavor volatiles by fractionating, based upon solubility, raw roots into major groups of constituents. Volatile thermophyllic products from the individual fractions were analyized and compared to those from non-extracted root material. Volatile components were seperated and identified using GC-MS and quantified using internal standard methodology. Mechanisms of synthesis of flavor volatiles via thermophyllic reactions will be discussed, as will postharvest treatments that can modulate eventual aromatic properties of cooked plant products.

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Stanley J. Kays and Yan Wang

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Yan Wang and Stanley J. Kays

The sweetpotato weevil is the single most critical insect pest of the sweetpotato worldwide. While male weevils can be lured to traps using a synthetic female pheromone, crop losses are not adequately reduced since damage is caused by the larvae arrising from eggs laid by female weevils in the storage roots. Identification of a female attractant could greatly enhance the control of the insect. The leaves and storage roots are known to emit volatiles that attract the female and in the following tests, we demonstrate that feeding by female weevils stimulates the synthesis of a volatile attractant which attracts additional females to the root. Undamaged, artificially damaged, and female weevil feeding damaged periderm were tested in dual-choice and no-choice olfactometers. Volatiles from feeding damaged roots were significantly more attractive than undamaged and artificially damaged roots. To test whether the volatile attractant was of weevil or root origin, volatiles were collected in MeCl2 after removal of the weevils and fractionated on a megabore DB-1 capillary column using a GC fitted with a TC detector. Fractions were collected from the exit port and their activity index (AI) determined using dual choice and no choice olfactometry. The active fraction was ascertained and active components identified via GC-MS.

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Stanley J. Kays and F. Kultur

Increased interest in the Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus L.) stems from the high level of inulin, a straight chain fructan, found in the tubers that has a number of current and potential industrial applications. Deficiencies in existing cultivars have underscored the need for a pragmatic breeding program. Since synchronization of flowering has a pronounced influence on genetic crosses that can be made, we assessed the flowering date and duration of 190 clones with selected clones similarly monitored for two additional growing seasons. Substantial genetic variation in the date and the duration of flowering were found with the onset of flowering ranging from 69 to 174 days after planting (DAP). Flowering duration ranged from 21 to 126 days. The onset of flowering was substantially affected by planting date and to a lesser extent by location. The results suggest that at lower latitudes flowering date for some clones can be manipulated by planting date; at higher latitudes, growth under controlled conditions may be required to synchronize flowering of some clones.

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Yan Wang and Stanley J. Kays

Flavor quality is one of the most difficult traits to select in plant breeding programs due to the large number of sensory panelists required, the small number of samples that can be evaluated per day, and the subjectivity of the results. Using sweetpotato [Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam.] as a model, clones exhibiting distinctly different flavors were analyzed for sugars, nonvolatile acids, and aroma chemistry to identify the critical flavor components. Differences in sugars, sucrose equivalents, nonvolatile acids, and 19 odor-active compounds were identified that accounted for differences in flavor among the clones. Using the intensity of the aroma per microliter for each of the 17 most important aroma-active compounds (maltol, 5-methyl-2-furfural, 2-acetyl furan, 3-furaldehyde, 2-furmethanol, benzaldehyde, phenylacetaldehyde, β-ionone, 1,2,4-trimethyl benzene, 2-pentyl furan, 2,4-decadienal, 2,4-nonadienal, linalool, geraniol, cyperene, α-copane and a sesquiterpene) and the relative sweetness of individual sugars × their respective concentrations, multivariate (principal component and cluster) analysis allowed accurate classification of the clones according to flavor type without sensory analysis. The level of precision was such that sweetness, starch hydrolysis potential, and the concentration of β-carotene could be accurately predicted by quantifying specific volatiles. Analytical assessment of flavor would greatly facilitate the accurate evaluation of large numbers of progeny, the simultaneous selection of multiple flavor types, and the development of superior new cultivars for a wide cross-section of food crops.

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Yan Wang and Stanley J. Kays

The sweetpotato weevil (SPW) [Cylas formicarius elegantulus (Summers) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae)] is the single most devastating pest of the sweetpotato [Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam.] worldwide. Attempts to develop host-plant resistance have been only moderately successful due in part to deficiencies in parent and progeny selection methods. Host-plant phytochemicals play critical roles in insect behavior, modulating a cross-section of key behavioral decisions. Thus, identification of the phytochemicals the female weevil uses in decision making could greatly facilitate development of host-plant resistance. The volatile chemistry of the sweetpotato was studied in relation to the host-finding behavior of the female weevil. Critical biologically active volatiles were determined via isolation (Tenax trapping), fractionation (gas chromatography-thermal conductivity detector), identification (gas chromatography and gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy), and bioassay (olfactometry). Differences in volatile chemistry among sweetpotato clones that may relate to differences in resistance or susceptibility to the female SPW were assessed. Volatile extracts from storage roots (site of oviposition) and aerial plant parts were attractive to female SPW, the former being substantially greater. In total, 33 compounds were identified from storage roots and aerial plant parts, including 23 terpenes. Three oxygenated monoterpenes (nerol, Z-citral, and methyl geranate), found in storage roots but not aerial plant parts, were identified as attractants. The sesquiterpene volatile fraction was repellent to female SPW with α-gurjunene, α-humulene, and ylangene active in the concentration range emanating from storage roots. The aerial plant parts emanated a higher composite concentration of sesquiterpenes than storage roots. Differences in the relative attraction among four sweetpotato cultivars to female SPW was inversely correlated with the composite concentration of headspace sesquiterpenes. Selection of clones with decreased volatile attractants and/or increased deterrents using an analytical means of quantification may significantly facilitate developing resistance to the SPW.

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Wayne J. McLaurin and Stanley J. Kays

Jerusalem artichokes are one of a small number of crops that store carbon predominately in the form of inulin, a straight chain fructosan. There has been a tremendous increase in interest in inulin due to its dietary health benefits for humans and calorie replacement potential in processed foods. We measured the allocation of dry matter within the crop (cv. Sunckoke) during an entire growth cycle by harvesting plants over a 40-week period (2-week intervals) from initial planting through field storage. Plant characters assessed were: no. of basal stems, leaves, branches, flowers, and tubers; the dry weight of leaves, branches, flowers, tubers, and fibrous roots; and date of flowering. Total dry weight of above-ground plant parts increased until 18 weeks after planting (22 Aug.) and then progressively decreased thereafter. Tuber dry weight began to increase rapidly ≈4 weeks (19 Sept.) after the peak in above-ground dry weight, suggesting that dry matter within the aerial portion of the plant was being recycled into the storage organs. Tuber dry weight continued to increase during the latter part of the growing season, even after the first frost. Final tuber yield was 13.6 MT of dry matter/ha.

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Zana C. Somda and Stanley J. Kays

The effect of the plant density (15, 30, 45 × 96-cm spacing) on the branching pattern `Jewel' sweet potato [Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam.] was determined bi-weekly for 18 weeks. Plant density effects were significant for the number of branches formed and timing of branch formation. Plant density did not affect the type of branches formed (e.g., primary, secondary, and tertiary), but did alter the timing of induction during the growing season. By the end of the growing period, the ratios for the number of primary to secondary branches were 1.5:1, 1.3:1, and 0.6:1 at the 15-, 30-, and 45-cm spacing, respectively. Few tertiary branches were formed, but were present on some plants at each spacing. Tertiary branches most commonly occurred on plants at the widest spacing. While the number of branches per plant was highly plastic and inversely related to plant density, nodes per branch and internode length were not significantly affected. Average internode length per branch decreased with descending branch hierarchy (i,e., main stem < primary branch < secondary branch). `Jewel' sweet potato responded to increased space available largely through production of additional branches with the modification of branching pattern increasing as the season progressed.