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- Author or Editor: Marcelo A.G. Carnelossi x
Blueberry is widely grown around the world, and the United States is the leading producer. A strategy to maintain fruit quality during commercial handling is rapid cooling using the forced-air system. Hydrocooling (HY) is an effective cooling method widely used for many crops and has potential as a cooling method for blueberry. The objective of this study was to compare the cooling efficiency of conventional forced-air cooling (FA), the current commercial method, with immersion HY alone or HY in combination with FA (HY + FA), and to determine effects on blueberry fruit quality during subsequent cold storage. ‘Emerald’ and ‘Farthing’ southern highbush blueberry were commercially harvested and packed into plastic clamshell containers. FA was accomplished by simulating commercial conditions using a small-scale unit within a cold room at 1 °C/80% relative humidity (RH) until 7/8 cooling was achieved (27 minutes). For HY, fruit in clamshells (125 g) were immersed in chlorinated ice water (200 ppm free Cl−1, pH = 7.0) and 7/8 cooling occurred in 4 minutes. For HY + FA, fruit were 7/8 hydrocooled then transferred to FA for 30 minutes to remove free water from the fruit. After the cooling treatments, clamshells were evaluated weekly for selected quality parameters during 21 days storage at 1 °C. For HY treatment, the 1/2 cooling time was 1.13 minutes for ‘Emerald’ and 1.19 minutes for ‘Farthing’, whereas for FA treatment, the 1/2 cooling times were 4.5 and 6.8 minutes, respectively. For ‘Farthing’, cooling method did not affect fruit firmness; after 21 days, there was a slight softening in fruit from all treatments. However, ‘Emerald’ fruit cooled by HY + FA were softer than those from either HY or FA after 14 days of storage. For all cooling methods ‘Emerald’ was less acidic (0.3% citric acid) and was sweeter [10.2% soluble solids content (SSC)] than ‘Farthing’ (0.6% citric acid, 9.4% SSC). There were no differences in bloom among cooling methods. Bloom ratings for ‘Emerald’ remained >4.5 (70% to 80% coverage) whereas that for ‘Farthing’ cooled by HY or HY + FA was 3.7. Anthocyanin concentration in ‘Emerald’ fruit from HY + FA cooling method decreased by 33% during 21 days of storage, whereas that for ‘Farthing’ remained constant (8.3 mg cyanidin-3-Glicoside/g) irrespective of treatment during storage. Compared with ‘Farthing’, ‘Emerald’ was more sensitive to HY, where ≈15% of fruit developed visual skin breaks (split) after 7 days storage. HY shows potential as an alternative method to rapidly and thoroughly cool southern highbush blueberries such as ‘Farthing’, thus, maintaining fruit quality, while introducing a rinsing and sanitizing treatment. HY needs to be tested on commercial cultivars to determine the incidence of fruit splitting.