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Gene E. Lester

Plasma membrane (PM) from hypodermal-mesocarp tissues of muskmelon fruits (Cucumis melo L. var. reticulatus Naud.) were compared to the electrolyte leakage changes of the same tissue during maturation and storage at 4 or 24C. During fruit maturity and storage, leakage of the hypodermal-mesocarp tissue increased, which is coincident with increased total sterol: total phospholipid ratios and increased phospholipid fatty acid saturation index of the PM. ATPase activity, a marker for the PM, indicated that the PM increased in buoyant density from 1.13 g.cm-3 to 1.14 g.cm-3 during maturity and ATPase activity peaked with fruit maturation. ATPase activity decreased with 10 days postharvest storage and was less at 24C vs. 4C, which was coincident with increased hypodermal-mesocarp electrolyte leakage. Biochemical changes within the sterol and phospholipid matrix of the PM are suggested to contain the processes capable of altering fruit membrane permeability and subsequent muskmelon fruit storage life.

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Gene E. Lester

Analyses of sensory attributes from 19 netted muskmelon (Cucumis melo L.) cultivars and breeding lines showed that flavor, (r= .92) had the highest significant correlation with overall fruit acceptance, while appearance (r = .72), color (r = .71) and internal color (r = .68) were secondary, and texture (r = .41) was not significantly correlated with overall fruit acceptance. Chemical attributes of soluble solids, fresh weight, dry weight, beta-carotene, firmness, fructose, glucose, sucrose, and total sugars shoved that total sugars per g fresh weight had the highest significant correlation (r = .68) with overall fruit acceptance. Total sugars per g fresh weight was significantly correlated with flavor (r = .65). Although, sugars were correlated with flavor, sugars when compared to flavor were less important in determination of overall muskmelon fruit preference.

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Gene E. Lester

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Gene E. Lester

Organic and conventional fruits and vegetables contain compounds with important human health promoting effects. Whether fruits and vegetables grown via organic versus conventional production systems are superior in taste and nutrition, at present, is difficult to say with complete certainty. To ascertain possible quality differences and develop a definitive data base, direct comparative studies of organic vs. conventional produce requires following rigorous guidelines which includes 1) appropriate study approaches (retail market vs. farm vs. research center studies), and 2) standardized preharvest production site, harvest procedural, postharvest handling, and analytical methodology constraints.

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Donald J. Makus* and Gene E. Lester

Field-grown mustard greens, Brassica juncea, were used to validate several observations of a greenhouse study which reported nutrient changes in mustard greens grown, in part, under ambient and reduced light. The cultivar Florida Broadleaf was transplanted into a Hildago sandy clay soil near Weslaco, Texas (26° 08' Lat.) on 6 Nov 2003. Greens were fertigated with 30 kg·ha-1 of N on 1 Dec. Plants 14 days before harvest were grown under the following four light regimes: (1) continuous ambient light; (2) 7 days of 50% shade then 7 days of ambient light; (3) 7 days of ambient light then 7 days of 50% shade; and (4) 14 days of 50% shade. Cumulative solar light was 28.9 and 19.4 kW/m2 during the first and second 7 days, respectively. Measured cumulative light, as PPFD, for treatments 1-4 were 108, 67, 78, and 44 mm·m-2·s-1, respectively. Plants were harvested at 0800, 1100, and 1400 h on 2 Jan. 2004. Shade during the last 7 days generally evoked the greatest responses. Increased shade duration did not significantly effect the agronomic performance, but did increase leaf total carotenoids, chlorophylls, water content, and reduced total ascorbate levels. As time of daylight progressed, sample plant weight and average leaf weight decreased in shaded plants only. Free ascorbic acid, chlorophyll a:b ratio, and the chlorophyll to carotenoid ratio decreased with time of day. Cumulative sunlight, as PPFD, was significantly correlated with total ascorbate (fresh weight basis), chlorophyll a:b ratio, and plant weight (P < 0.06) and negatively correlated with chlorophylls and total carotenoids (dry weight basis). Thus, cloudy weather prior to harvest can reduce leaf Vitamin C and alter leaf greenness

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Bruce D. Whitaker and Gene E. Lester

Increases in phospholipase D (PLD) and lipoxygenase (LOX) activities are thought to play a key role in senescence of mesocarp tissues in muskmelon fruit. We have cloned and characterized two full-length cDNAs, CmPLDα and CmLOX1, encoding PLDα and LOX proteins in honeydew melon (Cucumis melo L. Inodorus Group). Levels of expression of the corresponding genes were determined by semi-quantitative RT-PCR in developing and mature fruit mesocarp tissues (20–60 d after pollination; DAP), and in roots, leaves, and stems from 4-week-old and flowers from 6-week-old plants. The coding regions of CmPLDα1 and CmLOX1 cDNAs are, respectively, 2427 and 2634 nucleotides long, encoding proteins 808 and 877 amino acids in length. CmPLDα1 is most similar to PLDα genes in castor bean, cowpea, strawberry, and tomato (77% nucleotide identity), and is the first cucurbit PLD gene cloned. CmLOX1 has 94% nucleotide identity to a cucumber LOX gene expressed in roots and 80% identity to cucumber cotyledon lipid body LOX. Transcript of CmPLDα1 was much more abundant than that of CmLOX1, but relative levels of transcript in the various organs and tissues were similar for the two genes. Expression was highest in roots, flowers, and fruit mesocarp tissues. CmPLDα1 expression in fruit was high throughout development, although maximum levels occurred at 50 and 55 DAP, respectively, in middle and hypodermal mesocarp. CmLOX1 expression was generally higher in middle than in hypodermal mesocarp with maximum transcript levels at 55 and 50 DAP, respectively. Overall, the patterns of expression of CmPLDα1 and CmLOX1 are consistent with a model in which their encoded enzymes act in tandem to promote or accelerate senescence in fruit mesocarp tissues.

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Gene E. Lester and Michael A. Grusak

Commercially grown honeydew fruit (Cucumis melo Inodorus group) and netted cantaloupe fruit (C. melo Reticulatus group) in low-humidity regions of the U.S. are typically field packed, eliminating the possibility for postharvest chelated-calcium dip treatments to extend fruit shelf life. In this study, calcium treatments were applied to orange-flesh honeydew fruit commercially grown in 2001 and 2002 in Sacramento Valley, Calif. and orange-fleshed netted cantaloupe fruit commercially grown in 2002 in Imperial Valley, Calif., and Rio Grande Valley, Texas. Aminoacid-chelated calcium and mannitol-complexed calcium compounds were applied to field-grown plants at the rate of 2.3 L·ha-1 (1 qt/acre) at 0, 1, 2, or 4 total applications during growth of honeydew and cantaloupe fruit. Applications were A) at female flowering, B) within 15 days (cantaloupe) or 20 days (honeydew) after flowering, C) within 30 days (cantaloupe) or 40 days (honeydew) after female flowering, and/or D) within 3 to 5 days before abscission. One application equaled (A) or (D), two applications equaled (A + B) or (C + D) and four applications equaled (A + B + C + D). Evaluations of fully abscised fruit were exterior and interior firmness, marketability, calcium concentrations, interior soluble solids concentration (sugars), and consumer preference (taste) following harvest and up to 3 weeks commercial/retail storage. Cantaloupe fruit at both locations did not appear to benefit from preharvest plant applications of calcium when compared to fruit from plants treated with water. Honeydew fruit, however, did and the benefit was observed both years. Honeydew fruit that received four preharvest plant applications of calcium, regardless of source, were generally superior in firmness, marketability, and had a higher calcium concentration than fruit from plants receiving water or one or two applications of calcium. Fruit sugars and taste were not affected by preharvest plant applications of calcium.

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Gene E. Lester and Michael A. Grusak

Commercially grown honey dew fruit [Cucumis melo (Inodorus group)] typically are harvested before abscission because fruit cut unripe have a longer storage life than fully ripe fruit. However, because fully ripe fruit contain higher concentrations of soluble solids (predominantly as sugars), an attribute that increases their preference among consumers, methods are being explored to extend the storage life of fully ripe fruit. In this study, fully abscised honey dew fruit were evaluated for tissue attributes and consumer preference following postharvest dipping in either chelated or nonchelated calcium (Ca) solutions. Calcium sources were an amino acid-chelated Ca, ethylene-diamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA)-chelated Ca, or calcium chloride (CaCl2), with each provided at three different rates. Fruit were evaluated at harvest, and after 14 or 22 days commercial storage. Evaluations were peel surface changes (color and disorders), hypodermal-mesocarp tissue Ca concentration, flesh firmness, soluble solids concentration, and consumer preference of the edible flesh. Peel color became yellowed and lighter during storage for all fruit, with higher Ca rates resulting in more intensely yellowed fruit. Hypodermal-mesocarp tissue Ca concentration was 0.90 mg·g-1 of fresh weight (900 ppm) at harvest, and declined in all fruit by 22 days storage. Peel disorders (disease and spotting) were none to slight for all fruit by 14 days storage, but by 22 days storage disease incidence ranged from none to severe, depending on the Ca source and rate. Fruit firmness declined in all fruit throughout storage, with the smallest declines measured in fruit treated with the amino acid-chelated Ca. Soluble solids concentration of fully ripe fruit was 12.3% at harvest, and showed either no decline or slight declines with storage among the treatments. Consumer preference was highest for freshly harvested fruit, but fruit were desirable even after 22 days storage across all treatments. Postharvest application of Ca at ≤0.16 m Ca in an amino acid-chelated form, versus EDTA-chelated Ca or CaCl2, slowed honey dew melon senescence so that after 22 days of commercial and retail storage the fruit were of high marketable quality, and there was no detrimental effect on consumer preference for the edible flesh.

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Gene E. Lester and Bruce D. Whitaker

Postharvest gamma-irradiation of melons at low dosage has been reported to extend shelf life. This study assessed how irradiation alters the structure and function of plasma membrane (PM) from hypodermal-mesocarp tissue. Administration of gamma rays (1 kGy at 0.017 kGy/min) to mature melon (Cucumis melo L.) fruit caused a 14% drop in H+-ATPase activity within 4 h. Total protein content did not differ in PM from non-irradiated (NIR) vs. irradiated (IR) fruits. Following storage (7 days at 7C then 3 days at 21C), H+-ATPase activity was ≈10% to 20% lower in PM from both groups of fruit, with no difference between the two. Total PM protein had declined by 34% and 49% in IR and NIR fruits, respectively. After irradiation, the phospholipid to protein ratio (PL:protein) was substantially higher in PM from IR fruit (0.67 vs. 0.58 in NIR). With storage, PL:protein dropped to 0.52 in NIR fruit PM, but changed little (0.65) in IR fruit PM. These results may indicate that irradiation stimulates PL synthesis or inhibits PL catabolism. Further analyses of PM lipid content and composition are underway.