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  • Author or Editor: Alicia Pastor x
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Morphological and physical characteristics of the cuticular membrane (CM) of selected cultivars of sweet cherry (Prunus avium L.) fruit were studied relative to rain-induced cracking. Two characteristics of the CM may be determinants in rain-induced fruit cracking. The surface morphology and chemistry determine surface wettability and water retention, and the morphology and physicochemical characteristics its water permeability. The fruit epidermis as well as the guard cell walls adjacent to the outer vestibule and stomatal pore are covered by a thin lipoidal CM. Stomata were present at a frequency of 0.1 to 2 per mm2 depending on cultivar and fruit surface position. However, most appeared nonfunctional with many pores partially or completely occluded with wax-like material. There was no evidence of water (containing fluorescein or AgNO3) penetration into stomatal pores following surface application or submerging fruit for short periods. There was stomatal pore penetration when submerged fruit were infiltrated by reduced pressure in the presence of 0.1% L-77. Preferential sorption of AgNO3 and fluorescein by cuticular ledges and guard cells was noted. The epicuticular wax (ECW) had no significant fine-structure. The CM was isolated enzymatically (cellulase/pectinase) and found to be 1 to 2 μm thick with an area weight of 1.2 to 2.3 g·m–2, of which 25% to 40% was chloroform/methanol (1: 1by vol.) soluble. Fractionation of the chloroform/methanol fraction indicated the presence of four groups of nonpolar constituents. The fruit surface was moderately difficult to wet, forming contact angles of 85% to 105%, and with an estimated critical surface tension in the range of 16-24 mN·m–1. Fruit water loss (transpiration) and uptake on submersion was followed and found to be complex. Transpiration increased with an increase in temperature, and both rate of transpiration and water uptake increased after removal of the epicuticular and cuticular waxes. Pathways of water uptake and the significance of our findings to rain-induced fruit cracking will be discussed.

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