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  • Author or Editor: Maria Rubino x
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The United States is the world's largest producer of blueberries and strawberries. Successful marketing for both of them requires fruit of the highest quality and appearance. However, these fruits have a relatively short postharvest life, mostly due to the incidence of molds such as Colletrotrichum acutatum, Alternaria alternata, and Botrytis cinerea. At present, several natural occurring plant volatiles have been shown to be effective against fungal growth, but, even so, those compounds could not be maintained at constant concentration during the whole postharvest period due to their volatility. In this work, two naturally occurring aldehydes (acetaldehyde and hexanal) were tested and compared against the growth of the above mentioned fungi at 23 °C. After that, the most effective antifungal compound for each fungus was encapsulated in ß-cyclodextrins (ß-CD) and tested during storage period. Both aldehydes were effective in reducing and avoiding fungal proliferation depending on concentration. Fungal proliferation depended on daily, and not initial, volatile concentrations. Volatiles encapsulated in ß-CD showed higher antifungal activity compared to that obtained using the pure volatile during storage. Tested volatiles showed both fungicidal and fungistatic capacities after storage of fungal cultures in air. Results suggested ß-CD-acetaldehyde and ß-CD-hexanal complexes can be used as a new technology to release a naturally occurring antifungal compound during storage against several fungal diseases.

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Removal and disposal of polyethylene mulch in vegetable production represents a high economic and environmental cost to society. This study was conducted in 2006 and 2007 at Michigan State University to test the field performance of new biodegradable mulches using ‘Mountain Fresh Plus’ tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) as a model crop. Treatments included two biodegradable mulches (black and white), each with two thicknesses (35 and 25 μm). A conventional low-density polyethylene (LDPE) mulch of 25 μm was included as a control (a mulch commonly used by vegetable growers). Data loggers were installed 2 cm into the soil under the various mulches to record soil temperature. The experiment used a randomized complete block design with four replications. The mulches were used on a raised bed, drip irrigation system. Mulch degradation, soil temperature, tomato growth, weed density, and biomass were assessed during the seasons. Tomatoes were harvested at maturity and were fruit graded according to market specifications. Results indicate that soil temperature under the biodegradable mulches was greater than that under the LPDE mulch during the first week. Starting the second week, soil temperature dropped gradually under all the biodegradable mulches. The drop in temperature was greatest with the white mulch. Due to premature breakdown of the white mulches, weed pressure was high, resulting in smaller plants with low yield in 2007. Tomato growth, yield, and fruit quality from the black mulch was equivalent to that in the LDPE mulch. Future studies will optimize biodegradability of the mulches and test mechanical laying of the black mulch under commercial production.

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