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Robert K. Prange, John M. DeLong, Peter A. Harrison, Jerry C. Leyte and Scott D. McLean

A new chlorophyll fluorescence (F) sensor system called FIRM (fluorescence interactive response monitor) was developed that measures F at low irradiance. This system can produce a theoretical estimate of Fo at zero irradiance for which we have coined a new fluorescence term, Fα. The ability of Fα to detect fruit and vegetable low-O2 stress was tested in short-term (4-day) studies on chlorophyll-containing fruit [apple (Malus sylvestris (L.) Mill. var. domestica (Borkh.) Mansf.), pear (Pyrus communis L.), banana (Musa ×paradisiaca L.), kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa C.S. Liang & A.R. Ferguson), mango (Mangifera indica L.), and avocado (Persea americana Mill.)] and vegetables (cabbage (Brassica oleracea L. Capitata Group), green pepper (Capsicum annuum L. Grossum Group), iceberg and romaine lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.)). In all of these fruit and vegetables, Fα was able to indicate the presence of low-O2 stress. As the O2 concentration dropped below threshold values of 0 to 1.4 kPa, depending on the product, the Fα value immediately and dramatically increased. At the end of the short-term study, O2 was increased above the threshold level, whereupon Fα returned to approximately prestressed values. A 9-month study was undertaken with `Summerland McIntosh' apple fruit to determine if storing the fruit at 0.9 kPa O2, the estimated low O2 threshold value determined from Fα, would benefit or damage fruit quality, compared with threshold + 0.3 kPa (1.2 kPa O2) and the lowest recommended CA (1.5 kPa O2). After 9 months, the threshold treatment (0.9 kPa) had the highest firmness, lowest concentration of fermentation volatiles (ethanol, acetaldehyde, ethyl acetate) and lowest total disorders. Sensory rating for off-flavor, flavor and preference indicated no discernible differences among the three treatments.