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R. Andrew Schofield, Jennifer R. DeEll and Dennis P. Murr

Traditional hand compression firmness scores of iceberg lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) heads were compared with force-deformation data collected from parallel-plate compression tests conducted with a universal testing machine. Sample deformation was measured over a load range of 30 to 40 N. A quadratic response surface best described the relationship between hand firmness scores (1 to 5 scale) and three measurements of sample deformation (mm). Sample deformation was as precise as hand compression in measuring lettuce firmness, and it provided improved reproducibility by eliminating much of the human error. Although adequate for most firm heads, the predictive ability of the statistical model was weak for soft heads (when the hand firmness score was <2), and for heads with inconsistencies in firmness because of uneven leaf distribution. The minimum sample size required to determine accurately the mean firmness score (±0.5 units) of a population of harvested lettuce was ≈20 heads. This may be a disadvantage, since sampling one head requires ≈1.5 minutes. Overall, the instrument-based method measures lettuce firmness as precisely as the hand compression method, and provides a standardized, objective measurement for postharvest researchers when exchanging or reporting firmness data.

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R. Andrew Schofield, Jennifer R. DeEll and Dennis P. Murr

Chlorophyll fluorescence responds to a range of environmental stresses that affect horticultural crops. This technique has been used successfully to evaluate the quality of commodities after exposure to a number of postharvest stresses such as chilling, heat, and atmospheric stress. As well, chlorophyll fluorescence measurements have been incorporated as the main characteristics in shelf-life prediction models. Our objective was to evaluate the use of chlorophyll fluorescence measurements at harvest to predict the shelf-life of `Iceberg' lettuce. It was hypothesized that storage potential is influenced by the degree of stress induced by field conditions and that different cultivars, although grown under the same conditions, experience varying degrees of stress that can be detected by fluorescence measurements at harvest, even in the absence of visual differences in quality. The utility of fluorescence measurements was limited by inconsistencies in the development of the heads, such as maturity and leaf formation, and by variation among different areas of the same leaf. Fluorescence data from a homogeneous group of heads revealed that the variation associated with different areas of the same leaf was larger than that associated with measurements from different heads. Also, fluorescence readings from one leaf differed from those taken from any non-adjacent leaves. These sources of variation, along with strong cultivar-dependant differences in the fluorescence signal, were quite large, and hence, any trends in fluorescence measurements related to storage potential were not observed. Therefore, chlorophyll fluorescence at harvest does not appear to be a good predictor of lettuce storability.

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John M. DeLong, Robert K. Prange, Peter A. Harrison, R. Andrew Schofield and Jennifer R. DeEll

A final harvest window (FHW), expressed as Streif Index coefficients [firmness/(percentage soluble solids concentration × starch index)], was developed for identifying maximum fruit quality for strains of `McIntosh', `Cortland', and `Jonagold' apples (Malus ×domestica Borkh.) following 8 months of controlled-atmosphere (CA) storage. The Streif Index was calculated during nine preharvest (twice per week) intervals and four weekly harvests over three seasons. The relationship between Streif Index (dependent variable) and day of year (independent variable) of the preharvest and harvest samples was then derived by negative first-order linear regression equations that had parameter estimate (b1) probability values ≤0.0001 for all of the strains. Apples from the four harvest periods were stored in standard CA storage for 8 months and then subjected to a 7-day shelf-life test at 0 °C followed by 5 days at 20 °C. Poststorage quality data were categorized and combined to produce an overall fruit quality rating scale. For each strain, the final harvest (i.e., day of year) was identified as that which directly preceded at least a 10% drop in the poststorage fruit quality rating compared with the first harvest rating. The FHW, expressed as Streif Index coefficients via the regression of Streif Index (Y) on day of year (X), was then calculated as the 3-year final harvest mean with the upper and lower window limits being determined by the standard deviation of the mean. The lower to upper FHW boundaries ranged from 4.18 to 5.34, 4.12 to 5.46, 4.51 to 5.68, 5.23 to 5.99, and 1.38 to 2.34 for Redmax, Marshall and Summerland `McIntosh', Redcort `Cortland' and Wilmuta `Jonagold', respectively. The practical utility of the Streif Index method lies in the ease with which apple fruit maturity at harvest can be evaluated for its suitability for long-term CA storage.