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  • Author or Editor: Sylvia M. Blankenship x
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A field study was initiated in 1981 in western North Carolina to determine the influence of eight groundcover management systems on quality of `Redchief Red Delicious' apple (Malus domestica) grafted onto rootstock of M VIIA. Management systems included: bare soil, Secale cereale mulch, minimal cultivation, Festuca arundinacea, Dactylis glomerata, Poa pratensis, Muhlenbergia schreberi and Rubus sp. Thus far, fruit quality data indicate that fruits produced in plots of cool-season grasses are smaller and less mature than those produced in vegetation-free plots or plots of warm-season grasses. A negative correlation was noted between high fruit quality and water deficit stress as measured by water potential and stomatal conductance.

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A starch staining technique using pictures to rate starch disappearance has been developed to determine banana pulp maturity. The disappearance of starch from the pulp shows linear correlation with peel color (r 2 = 0.76) and soluble solids content (r 2 = 0.81). Pulp pH shows a poor correlation with starch disappearance (r 2 = 0.38). Staining banana pulp starch with an iodine solution is a quick and easy method for estimation of pulp maturity.

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An ethylene action inhibitor, MCP, was applied to preclimacteric and climacteric apple [Malus sylvestris L. (Mill.) var. domestica Borkh. Mansf.] fruit. Experiments were conducted in North Carolina and Washington State utilizing the following cultivars: Fuji, Gala, Ginger Gold, Jonagold, and Delicious. MCP inhibited loss of fruit firmness and titratable acidity when fruit were held in storage at 0 °C up to 6 months and when fruit were held at 20 to 24 °C for up to 60 days. For all cultivars except `Fuji', differences in firmness between treated and nontreated fruit exceeded 10 N after 6 months storage. These beneficial effects were seen in both preclimacteric and climacteric fruit. Ethylene production and respiration were reduced substantially by MCP treatment. MCP-treated fruit had soluble solids equal to or greater than those in nontreated fruit. Storage and shelf life were extended for all cultivars tested. Chemical name used: 1-methylcyclopropene (MCP).

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Optimum postharvest handling procedures were determined for Linaria maroccana `Lace Violet', Trachelium`Jemmy Royal Purple', and Zinnia elegans `Benary's Giant Scarlet' and `Sungold.' A 24-hour 10% or 20% sucrose pulse increased the vase life of Linaria by 2–4 days, resulting in a vase life of 9 days as compared to 5 days for control flowers held in deionized (DI) water. Use of floral foam and cold storage at 1 °C for 1 week decreased vase life. Treatment with either 0.1 or 1.0 ppm ethylene had no effect. The use of a commercial holding solution (Floralife Professional or Chrysal Professional 2 Processing Solution) or 2% or 3% sucrose increased vase life 4–10 days. For cut Trachelium, ethylene caused florets to close entirely or stop opening; 1-MCP and STS prevented these ethylene effects. Stems tolerated 4 days of 1 °C storage, but 1 week or more of storage reduced the 14-day vase life of unstored flowers to 9 days. Stems in 2% or 4% sucrose had a longer vase life compared to DI water. While the use of floral foam was not detrimental when used with sucrose solutions, it reduced vase life when sucrose was not used. Zinnia stems could not be cold stored for 1 week at 1 °C due to loss of turgidity and cold damage. Stems stored dry at 5 °C regained turgidity and averaged a vase life of 14 days; however, petals remained slightly twisted and curled after being in the vase for several days. Treatment with ethylene had no effect. Floral foam reduced vase life to 9–10 days.

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Optimum postharvest handling procedures were determined for Dahlia `Karma Thalia', Lupinusmutabilis ssp. cruickshankii`Sunrise', Papaver nudicaule `Temptress', and Rudbeckia`Indian Summer.' Dahlia harvested fully open had a vase life of 7–10 days in deionized (DI) water that was increased by 1.5–2 days using commercial holding solutions (Chrysal Professional 2 Processing Solution or Floralife Professional). Neither floral foam nor 0.1–1.0 ppm ethylene had any effect on vase life. One week of cold storage at 1 °C reduced vase life up to 2 days. The longest vase life, 12–13 days, was obtained when floral buds, showing a minimum of 50% color, were harvested at the breaking stage (one petal open) and placed in 2% or 4% sucrose or a commercial holding solution. Lupinus flowers held in DI water lasted 8–12 days; 1 week cold storage at 1 °C reduced vase life by 3 days. Florets and buds abscised or failed to open when exposed to ethylene; STS pretreatment prevented the effects of ethylene. Commercial holding solutions increased Papaver vase life to 7–8 days from 5.5 days for stems held in DI water. While stems could be cold stored for 1 week at 1 °C with no decrease in vase life, 2 weeks of cold storage reduced vase life. Flowers were not affected by foam or ethylene. Rudbeckia had a vase life of 27–37 days and no treatments extended vase life. Stems could be stored at 2 °C for up to 2 weeks and were not ethylene sensitive. Floral foam reduced the vase life over 50%, but still resulted in a 13-day vase life.

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The `Beauregard' sweetpotato variety is very prone to damage to its skin. We evaluated several preharvest treatments to reduce skinning so that less damage was done at harvest, during transport, and packing. Three field tests were conducted in 1998 (two tests) and 1999 (one test) in North Carolina. Treatments were implemented 1 and 2 weeks prior to harvest and were either chemical or mechanical. The three mechanical treatments were flail mowing, flail mowing and barring off, and vine snatching. The following chemical treatments were made: PREP, Diquat, Dessicate II, and 2,4-D at various rates. Sweetpotatoes were harvested and roots were graded. Subsequently, U.S. No. 1 root subsamples were obtained from each plot in order to evaluate the effects of treatment on skin tightening of roots. Roots were evaluated from each plot for skin toughness using a “skin-o-meter” where a pressurized stream of water was directed at a sweetpotato. The roots were then evaluated for skinning by checking if the skin was broken using the skin-o-meter. A second method was used to evaluate the effect of treatment for its effect on skin tightening (reduced skinning). One bushel of roots from each treatment plot was transported to Clinton, N.C., and run through a small packing line at the Horticultural Crops Research Station the next day after harvest. The sweetpotatoes were then evaluated in Raleigh for the number of incidences where skin had been removed during the harvesting, transport, or packing process. The severity of skinning was characterized by counting the number of small (<5 mm), medium (width 5-10 mm) and large (width 10+ mm) skinned areas on a root. An overall appearance rating for roots was also recorded for each subsampled plot with 10 being the best rating and 1 being the worst. Results indicate that treatment 14 days prior to harvest rather than 7 days prior to harvest seems to be advantageous in most cases for reducing skinning and maintaining yield of sweetpotato when compared with not treating the vines. Regardless of whether the treatment was chemical or mechanical, treatments were apparently beneficial in these tests. Application of PREP 7 days prior to harvest resulted in sweetpotatoes with the most resistance to skinning in 1999, the fewest large-size skinning abrasions on roots, and best appearance. PREP shows promise as a means to reduce skinning in sweetpotatoes, but presently is not labeled for use on sweetpotatoes.

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Commercial packing lines in Sampson County, N.C., were surveyed during two growing seasons to study handling methods on susceptibility of bell pepper fruits (Capsicum annuum L.) to bacterial soft rot (Erwinia carotovora subsp. carotovora). Samples were taken from two field packers and one packing house in 1991 and from two field packers and four packing houses in 1992. One field packer and one packing house were common to both years. Fruits were either inoculated with bacteria or untreated and stored at 10 or 21C. Damaged fruits were counted and classified as crushed, cut, bruised, abraded, and other injuries. Fruit injury was less dependent on whether the operation was a packing house or a field packing line than on the overall handling practices of the individual grower. In general, packing peppers in packing houses resulted in an increased number of bruises, whereas fruit from field packing lines had more abrasions. More open skin injuries resulted in greater fruit decay. In both years, fruits stored at 10C had less top rot than fruits stored at 21C. In 1992, they also had less pod rot. Dry and chlorinated lines often had equivalent rot problems.

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Sweetpotato roots, especially the cultivar Beauregard, tend to experience epidermal loss during harvest and postharvest handling which results in a less attractive product in the market. A survey study was conducted among North Carolina (N.C.) sweetpotato growers in Fall 2001 and 2002. The purpose of the survey was to gather information and try to correlate cultural practices, growing conditions and site characteristics with the occurrence of attractive roots and to define new scientific approaches to reducing epidermal loss. Samples were obtained from 42 N.C. farms. Survey field information and laboratory results were correlated to identify possible factors affecting the appearance of the roots. 1300 roots were used to measure skin adhesion, peeling susceptibility, skin moisture, skin anthocyanin and lignin content. From survey questions, 50 characteristics were defined for each sample, according to field characteristics, cultivar information, cultural practices and harvest and postharvest practices. Statistical analyses were performed to determine the relationship between the skin characteristics analyzed at the laboratory, and the survey descriptors information. Analysis of variance was used for laboratory data analysis. Person correlations were made between survey variables and laboratory characteristics. Several possible relationships between root appearance and other characteristics/practices were identified. Root skin adhesion may improve in later generations from elite propagation material. Early application of phosphate and potash fertilizers were correlated to improved root skin adhesion. There appeared to be a relationship between soil moisture at harvest time, increased lignin content in the skin and peeling susceptibility. Future areas of study were identified.

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Sweetpotatoes [Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam.] often experience significant epidermal loss during harvest and postharvest handling. Skin loss causes weight loss, shriveling of the root surface, and increased susceptibility to pathogen attack as well as poor appearance. It is not known if sweetpotatoes show variation in skin adhesion, cell wall enzyme activity and components, and growth parameters with growth temperature or if skin loss can be explained on the basis of variation among these variables. Skin adhesion, polygalacturonase (PG) and pectin methylesterase (PME) activity, lignin, anthocyanin, and dry matter content were measured in the periderm of ‘Beauregard’ roots grown at various temperatures under controlled conditions. Biomass dry matter content, storage root yield, root length, diameter, and weight at harvest were recorded. Histochemical and anatomical characteristics of periderm of roots were studied. Growth temperature affected skin adhesion, PG and PME activity, periderm and biomass dry matter content, yield, storage root weight, and diameter. High temperatures (34/31 °C day/night) yielded roots that were smaller and more resistant to skin loss. These roots had a periderm composed of more cell layers with a lower dry matter content than roots grown at lower and intermediate temperatures (27/24 °C and 20/17 °C). In cured roots, the correlation between skin adhesion and PG activity was negative (r = 0.544, P = 0.0006) and positive between skin adhesion and PME (r = 0.319, P = 0.05). For most of the variables studied, the interaction between growing temperature and curing was significant. Curing improved skin adhesion, but the effect of curing was dependent on the root growth temperature. The periderm of roots grown at higher temperatures was thicker and had more layers than that of roots grown at lower temperatures. Histochemical studies of the periderm of sweetpotato showed that the anatomical and structural composition of the cell walls differ depending on growth temperature.

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Bell peppers (Capsicum annuum L.) are classified as nonclimacteric fruits while some hot peppers have been reported as climacteric. Responses of peppers to exogenously applied ethylene-releasing compounds suggest ethylene involvement in the ripening process. Ethylene production and respiration rates in 13 cultivars of pepper: `Camelot', `Cherry Bomb', `Chiltepin', `Cubanelle', `Banana Supreme', `Habanero', `Hungarian Wax', `Mesilla', `Mitla', `Savory', `Sure Fire', `Tabasco', and `King Arthur' were studied under greenhouse and field conditions. Fruit from each cultivar were harvested at different maturity stages determined by color, ranging from mature-green to full red-ripe. Carbon dioxide and ethylene production were measured by gas chromatography. Both variables were significantly different among maturity stages for all cultivars. Respiration rates were between 16.5 and 440.3 mg·kg-1·h-1 CO2. Ethylene production ranged from 0.002 to 1.1 μL·kg-1·h-1. Two patterns of CO2 production were identified: higher CO2 production for mature-green fruit with successive decreases for the rest of the maturity stages or lower respiration rates for mature-green fruit with an increase in CO2 production either when fruit were changing color or once fruit were almost totally red. A rise in CO2 production was present for most cultivars. Ethylene evolution increased significantly at maturity or before maturity in all cultivars except `Cubanelle' and `Hungarian Wax'. Respiration rates and ethylene production were significantly different among cultivars at the mature-green and red stages.

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