Postharvest losses of horticultural perishables between the production and retail distribution sites are estimated to range from 2% to 23%, depending on the commodity, with an overall average of about 12% of what is shipped from U.S. production areas to domestic and export markets. Estimates of postharvest losses in developing countries are two to three times the U.S. estimates. Losses in dried grains, legumes, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and herbs and spices range from 1% to 10%, depending on their moisture content, temperature and relative humidity of transport and storage facilities, and protection against pathogens and insects. Reduction of these losses can increase food availability to the growing population, decrease the area needed for production, and conserve natural resources. Strategies for loss prevention include use of genotypes that have longer postharvest-life, use of an integrated crop management system that results in good keeping quality of the commodity, and use of the proper postharvest handling system that maintains quality and safety of the products. Biological (internal) causes of deterioration include respiration rate, ethylene production and action, rates of compositional changes, mechanical injuries, water loss, sprouting, physiological disorders, and pathological breakdown. The rate of biological deterioration depends on several environmental (external) factors, including temperature, relative humidity, air velocity, and concentrations of carbon dioxide, ethylene, and oxygen. Socioeconomic factors that contribute to postharvest losses include governmental regulations and policies, inadequate marketing and transportation systems, unavailability of needed tools and equipment, lack of information, and poor maintenance of facilities. Although minimizing postharvest losses of already produced food is more sustainable than increasing production to compensate for these losses, less than 5% of the funding of agricultural research is allocated to postharvest research areas. This situation must be changed to increase the role of postharvest loss reduction in meeting world food needs.
Adel A. Kader
Biological factors involved in deterioration of fresh horticultural perishables include respiration rate; ethylene production and action; compositional changes associated with color, texture, flavor (taste and aroma), and nutritional quality; growth and development; transpiration; physiological breakdown; physical damage; and pathological breakdown. There are many opportunities to modify these inherent factors and to develop genotypes that have lower respiration and ethylene production rates, less sensitivity to ethylene, slower softening rate, improved flavor quality, enhanced nutritional quality (vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and phytonutrients including carotenoids and polyphenols), reduced browning potential, decreased susceptibility to chilling injury, and increased resistance to postharvest decay-causing pathogens. In some cases the goals may be contradictory, such as lowering phenolic content and activities of phenylalanine ammonialyase and/or polyphenoloxidase to reduce browning potential vs. increasing polyphenols as antioxidants with positive effects on human health. Another example is reducing ethylene production vs. increasing flavor volatiles production in fruits. Overall, priority should be given to attaining and maintaining good flavor and nutritional quality to meet consumer demands. Extension of postharvest life should be based on flavor and texture rather than appearance only. Introducing resistance to physiological disorders and/or decay-causing pathogens will reduce the use of postharvest fungicides and other chemicals by the produce industry. Changes in surface structure of some commodities can help in reducing microbial contamination, which is a very important safety factor. It is not likely that biotechnology-based changes in fresh flowers, fruits, and vegetables will lessen the importance of careful and expedited handling, proper temperature and relative humidity maintenance, and effective sanitation procedures throughout the postharvest handling system.
Adel A. Kader
Adel A. Kader and Cathey Wolpert
Dangyang Ke and Adel A. Kader
Fruits of `Bing' cherry (Prunus avium L.), `Red Jim' nectarine (Prunuspersica L.), `Angeleno' plum (Prunus salicina, L.), `Yellow Newtown' and `Granny Smith' apples (Malus domestica Borkh.), and `20th Century' pear (Pyrus serotina L.) were treated with 0.25% or 0.02% O2 (balance N2) at 0, 5, or 10C to study the effects of these insecticidal low-O2 atmospheres on their postharvest physiology and quality attributes. Development of alcoholic off-flavor was associated with ethanol accumulation, which was the most common and important detrimental effect that limited fruit tolerance to low O2. Relatively higher storage temperature (T), higher respiration rate (R), and greater resistance to gas diffusion (r) enhanced while relatively higher O2 concentration (C) and higher soluble solids concentration (SSC) reduced off-flavor development. Using a SAS computer program to do multiple regression analysis with T, C, R, r, and SSC as variables, models were developed for prediction of fruit tolerance to insecticidal low-O, atmospheres. Comparison of fruit tolerances and published information on the times required to completely kill specific insects by O2 levels at or below 1% suggests that low-O2 atmospheres have a good potential for use as postharvest quarantine treatments for some fruits.
Dangyang Ke and Adel A. Kader
Fruits of peach (Prunus persica L., cv. `Fairtime') and plum (Prunus domestica L., cv. `Angeleno') were kept in air and in 0.25% or 0.02% O2 at 0, 5, or 10°C for 3 to 40 days to study the effects of temperatures and insecticidal low O2 atmospheres on their physiological responses and quality attributes. Exposure to low O2 atmospheres reduced respiration and ethylene production rates of the stone fruits. The low O2 treatments retarded color change and flesh softening of plums and maintained acidity of peaches. Exposure to the low O2 atmospheres also delayed incidence and reduced severity of internal breakdown (chilling injury) and decay of the peaches at 5°C and, therefore, maintained both external and internal appearance qualities of the fruits longer than those kept in air. The most important limiting factor for fruit tolerance to insecticidal low O2 atmospheres was development of alcoholic off-flavor which was associated with accumulation of ethanol and acetaldehyde in the fruits. The peaches and plums could tolerate exposures to the low O2 atmospheres for 9 to 40 days, depending on the temperature and O2 level used. These results suggest that stone fruits are quite tolerant to insecticidal low O2 atmospheres.
Dangyang Ke and Adel A. Kader
`Valencia' oranges [Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck] tolerated up to 20 days of exposure to 0.5%, 0.25%, or 0.02% O2, at 5 or 10C followed by holding in air at 5C for 7 days without any detrimental effects on external and internal appearance. Oranges stored in 0.5%, 0.25%, or 0.02% O2 had lower respiration rates, but higher resistance to CO, diffusion and higher ethanol evolution rates than those stored in air at 10C. Similar, but less pronounced, effects of the low O2 atmospheres were observed at O and SC. Respiration rates, internal CO2 concentrations, and ethanol evolution rates were generally higher at 10C than at 0C, while resistance to CO2 diffusion was lower at the higher temperature. `Valencia' oranges kept in 60% CO2 at 5C for 5 to 14 days followed by holding in air at 5C for 7 days developed slight to severe injury that was characterized by skin browning and lowered external appearance scores. Juice color, soluble solids content, pH, titratable acidity, and ascorbic acid content were not significantly influenced by either the low O2 or the high CO2 treatments. However, these treatments increased ethanol and acetaldehyde contents, which correlated with the decrease in flavor score of the fruits. Ethanol content of the oranges transferred to air following low 02 treatment correlated with CO2 production rate of the fruits at the transfer temperature and was related to ethanol evolution and probably production rates after the transfer.
Dangyang Ke and Adel A. Kader
Selected cultivars of several fruit species were exposed to 0.25% or 0.02% O2 at 0, 5, or 10C for short durations to investigate the potential of these treatments as quarantine procedures for postharvest insect control. Beneficial effects of such low O2 treatments included inhibition or delay of ripening processes as indicated by reduction in respiration and ethylene production rates, retardation of skin color changes and flesh softening, and maintenance of titratable acidity. While appearance was not adversely influenced by the short-term low O2 treatments, the development of alcoholic off-flavor was the most important detrimental effect, which limited the tolerance of fresh fruits to low-O2 atmospheres. Ethanol content and flavor score of the fruits had a logarithmic relationship. The threshold ethanol concentration associated with off-flavor detection (EO) increased with SSC of the commodity at the ripe stage, and it could be estimated using the following formula (Log EO)/SSC = 0.228. Using SSC of ripe fruits and average ethanol accumulation rate per day (V) from each low O2 treatment, the tolerance limit (Tl) of fruits to low O atmospheres could be predicted as follows: Tl = EO/E = 1 00.228 SSC2/V.E
Diana Dostal Lange and Adel A. Kader
Carbon dioxide-enriched atmospheres can be effective in the retardation of ripening and in the reduction of decay of horticultural commodities. However, concentrations in excess of the tolerance level may cause physiological damage. The goal of our research is to elucidate the specific regulatory mechanisms of CO2 actions. Cytochrome oxidase (CytOx) in vitro activity in preclimacteric avocado fruit stored in air or 40% CO2 + 12.6% O2 was evaluated at 20C. Activities were determined during treatment and also after a transfer to air. Fruit treated with 40% CO2 + 12.6% O2 had elevated CytOx in vitro activity when compared to air-stored fruit. Immunoblot analysis was performed to determine if the increase in CytOx activity could be due to an increase in enzyme concentration. The decline in respiration rate of CO,-treated fruit was most likely due to the decrease in intracellular pH and its effect on the activities of important respiratory enzymes, including CytOx. The regulatory mechanisms of other mitochondrial respiratory enzymes in `Hass' avocados exposed to elevated CO2 atmospheres are also under investigation.