Effect of preharvest UV-treatment on shelf life of fruits and vegetables
2011-01-18T10:27:45Z (GMT) by
The benefits of low UV dose treatment of horticultural produce – also known as hormetic treatment - have been attested to in numerous studies conducted over the last 15 years. However, commercial growers have not adopted the concept of hormesis. With increasingly stringent controls on the use of fungicides and other chemical agents the time has come to examine how hormetic treatment might be applied in the horticulture sector. The objectives of this work were firstly, to confirm UV-induced hormetic effects applied postharvest for a number of different types of produce, namely, tomatoes, broccoli, strawberries and mangoes. Secondly, to evaluate the use of rollers to ensure full surface treatment of produce, and thirdly to evaluate the possibility of treating produce preharvest. In order to investigate surface UV dose distributions, a polystyrene sphere (Diameter 70 mm) was used to simulate fruits such as tomatoes, apples, peaches etc., that have an approximately spherical form. Biodosimetry based on spores of Bacillus subtilis was employed to experimentally determine UV doses and to compare the results obtained with theoretical predictions. Good agreement was obtained and the modelling approach was extended to other types of produce. This showed the amenability of mechanical rollers to ensure full surface treatment of produce. Postharvest treatment of produce was carried using conventional low intensity UV sources principally emitting at 254 nm and also a commercially available high energy pulsed UV source. Treatment using the conventional UV source was carried out on mechanical rollers within a UV cabinet designed for this work at a fixed distance from the source and at an intensity of 1000 μW/cm2. A 5 minute conventional UV treatment of tomatoes was approximately comparable to fruit given a 3-pulsed treatment using the pulsed source (507 J/pulse of polychromatic light). The colour and texture of both groups of fruit were significantly maintained as compared with controls. The treated tomatoes also showed a significant increase in the ascorbic acid levels during storage. Similarly, a 15 minute conventional UV treatment of broccoli heads was comparable to heads given a 10-pulsed treatment using the pulsed source. Where both treatments gave rise to a statistically significant retention of green colour of treated broccoli. In addition, mangoes given a 10 minute conventional UV treatment were comparable to fruit given a 20-pulsed treatment using the pulsed source with both treatments leading to maintenance of texture as compared to control fruit. This confirmed the UV-hormetic effects. The effects of conventional and pulsed treatments are compared and discussed. Preharvest treatment of tomatoes and strawberries was carried out in commercial glasshouses. Doses of either 3 or 8 kJ/m2 were delivered to the fruits using a treatment device designed for the work, which delivered a combined intensity of 2000 μW/cm2 from two low pressure UV sources. The treated tomatoes showed a delay in development of colour as measured on the vine and after picking. Picked tomatoes were inoculated with P. digitatum and C. gloeosporioides and the results obtained showed a significant inhibition of the development of the fungi in the treated fruit during the storage period. These results suggest that the beneficial response shown by the preharvest treatment is not a localised one but a systematically induced resistance observable throughout the treated plant. This was shown by monitoring tomato fruits on treated plants which themselves where not directly exposed to the UV light. The two doses elicited different responses in the treated strawberries, with the 8 kJ/m2 dose causing the fruit to redden significantly faster than the 3 kJ/m2 treated fruits and controls. This could have significant nutritional benefit as the red colour of strawberries has been correlated with anthocyanin levels. On the other hand, treatment at the lower UV dose led to a lag in colour development. The amenability of the equipment utilised for commercial application is discussed.