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  • Author or Editor: Janice E. Young x
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Organic vegetables have been suggested to produce higher levels of phytochmemicals, which play active roles in disease prevention. We measured total phenolic and aglycone flavonoid (apigenin, kaempferol, luteolin, and quercetin) contents in leaves of organically- and conventionally-grown lettuce (`Kalura' and `Red Sails'), collards (`Top Bunch') and Pak Choi (`Mei Qing') greens during spring and summer trials, using the Folin assay and HPLC, respectively. Postharvest changes in phenolic contents of organic and conventional lettuce were also investigated after 17-day storage at 4 °C. Production system did not cause a significant difference in total phenolic levels of lettuce and collards in either trial, but total phenolics were significantly higher in organic Pak Choi in the summer trial, possibly due to greater flea beetle damage in the organic plots. Organic production did not affect the aglycone flavonoid levels of lettuce and collards in the spring trial except that apigenin increased in organic samples. In the summer trial, however, concentrations of kaempferol, luteolin and quercetin tended to increase in organic lettuce and collards; only luteolin showed promising increase in Pak Choi. Species and cultivars both had significant effects on total phenolic and flavonoid contents. After 17-day storage, total phenolic content significantly increased in both organic and conventional lettuce although the concentrations of aglycone flavonoids remained relatively constant. Total phenolic content was higher in organic `Red Sails' at a marginal significance level after storage, while it did not differ between organic and conventional `Kalura'. We noted a dominant presence of glycoside flavonoids in lettuce before and after storage, which warrants further study.

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As the largest group of phytochemicals, dietary phenolics play an important role in human health and disease prevention. Cultural practices have been shown to have the potential for affecting phenolic compounds in food crops. Spring and summer trials were conducted in 2003 to examine the effects of organic fertilization and high tunnel environments on phenolic constituents of lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) cultivars Red Sails and Kalura. Effects of postharvest storage at 4 °C for 16 days on total phenolics of lettuce harvested from the summer trial were also evaluated. Total phenolics, excluding anthocyanins, were measured spectrophotometrically, and major phenolic constituents were identified and quantified by high-performance liquid chromatography. Chlorogenic acid and quercetin glycosides were found to be predominant in lettuce. ‘Red Sails’ consistently exhibited significantly higher phenolic concentrations than ‘Kalura’. Organic (compost + fish emulsion) and conventional (N–P–K + CaNO3) fertilization did not consistently differentially affect lettuce phenolics in our recently established organic and conventional plots. The high tunnel environment generally reduced phenolic levels in lettuce relative to the open field. However, differences between high tunnel and open field varied with cultivar and season. Effects of production factors on lettuce phenolics were maintained during cold storage. There was a substantial increase in total phenolics during storage, likely correlated with declining lettuce quality. Further studies are warranted to more fully assess the impact of cultivar and production management, including organic fertilization, on lettuce phenolics.

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