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  • Author or Editor: Marcelo Valdés x
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Fresh fruit from northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) and rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium ashei) are highly perishable, so reaching distant markets while maintaining superior quality and value is a challenge. Although firmness is one of the most critical traits of blueberries (Vaccinium sp.), most of the industry relies on a subjective-tactile assessment or on the use of low-cost texture analyzers, whereas scientists tend to rely on the FirmTech II instrument. In the present study, the FirmTech II was evaluated as a texture analyzer and compared with tactile estimation, two other FirmTech II devices, and three relatively inexpensive durometers (Penefel, Durofel, and DM1600). Tests were run for fruit previously segregated by tactile (T) measurements into three classes of firmness: Soft-T, Moderate-T, and Firm-T; fruit were classified into instrument-based (I) categories of texture: Soft-I, Moderate-I, and Firm-I using the FirmTech II instrument. The level of coincidence between T and I assessments were higher in the soft (90.7% to 92.6%) and moderate (69.6% to 78.2%) classes compared with the firm class (51.6% to 61.4%). Among firmness categories, T and I assessments tended to agree; none of the Soft-T fruit were classed as Firm-I. In comparisons between equivalently calibrated FirmTech II devices, concordance always decreased as fruit firmness increased, indicating that more reproducible readings for a given instrument could be expected from softer fruit. Dual measurements on a single fruit for FirmTech II and a second device yielded variable, but significant correlation coefficients (Penefel: r 2 = 0.61 to 0.67; Durofel: r 2 = 0.48 to 0.61; DM1600: r 2 = 0.08 to 0.49). The highest correlation existed between two FirmTech II devices (r 2 = 0.94 to 0.95). However, correlations between the FirmTech II and second devices among the three firmness classes yielded very low correlation coefficients (Penefel: r 2 = 0.09 to 0.40; Durofel: r 2 = 0.05 to 0.32; DM1600: r 2 = 0.00 to 0.25; FirmTech II: 0.03 to 0.33), suggesting that although all instruments were suitable for evaluating across broad ranges of fruit firmness, they were all similarly unsuitable within a narrow firmness range (e.g., for all soft or all firm fruit). Given the subjectivity of the tactile measurement and the range of variability between the evaluated alternatives, both FirmTech II and Penefel performed better in soft fruit but not as well in moderate or firm fruit. Therefore, among the more economical durometer devices, Penefel could be used by the industry to discriminate soft fruit from moderately firm or firm fruit. The results highlight the relevance of studying the predictive capacity of a particular instrument and to understand the performance of that instrument within a particular range of firmness values.

Open Access

Blueberries are prone to dehydration during storage. Firmness is one of the most critical quality attributes associated with this period, with the loss of water from the fruit representing the most significant limitation for the fresh market. Therefore, one of the great challenges is maintaining the quality characteristics of the fruit in shipments by sea, which can take up to 60 days when sent from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere. The random arrangement of each fruit within a packaging unit (different proportions of the stem scar and cuticular surface exposed to the environment) represents an essential source of variation in the prediction of softening during the storage period. A special device, referred to as a dangler for accelerated dehydration (DAD), was designed to expose nearly the entire fruit surface to the environment and determine the impact of factors such as relative humidity and the role of the stem scar and cuticle on fruit water loss. Consequently, to evaluate the ability of DADs to find differences in fruit dehydration, blueberries sampled at early, peak, and late harvest dates were placed in DADs and exposed to three controlled levels of relative humidity (30%, 65%, and 96% relative humidity; 1.2 ± 0.7 °C) for 10 days. Berries within the DADs were untreated, immersed in hexane for 5 seconds to remove bloom, painted with quick-drying nail polish on the pedicel end to seal the stem scar or immersed in hexane for 5 seconds, and painted with quick-drying nail polish on the pedicel end. At each harvest, fruit weight loss was significantly affected by the fruit and RH treatments, as well as the interaction between them. A regression analysis of the control treatment indicated that water loss at lower relative humidities occurred faster in fruit from the first harvest. The results reveal that DADs can be used to characterize preharvest and postharvest stimuli at an individual level and within a short time (10 days).

Open Access