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Hormetic UV treatments for control of plant diseases on protected edible crops

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posted on 29.01.2018, 10:23 by George Scott
Hormesis is a dose response phenomenon where low doses of a stress bring about a positive response in the organism undergoing treatment. UV-C hormesis has been known for over three decades and has a broad range of benefits on postharvest produce. Benefits include increased nutritional content, delayed chlorophyll degradation and disease resistance. The beneficial effects have been observed on many varieties of fresh produce including climacteric and non-climacteric fruit, tubers, salads and brassicas. The majority of previous studies have used low-intensity (LIUV) UV-C sources. LIUV sources require lengthy treatment times, which are in the region of 6 minutes for tomato fruit. This has, in part, prevented the commercial application of this technique. High-intensity, pulsed polychromatic light (HIPPL) sources, however, have recently been developed. HIPPL sources may have the potential to drastically reduce treatment times and increase their commercial viability. It was shown, here, that the use of HIPPL can control disease (reduce disease progression) caused by Botrytis cinerea and Penicillium expansum and also delay ripening on tomato fruit. Both disease control and delayed ripening were at similar levels for LIUV and HIPPL treatments on mature green fruit. The HIPPL treatments used in these studies can reduce treatment times for tomato fruit by 97.3%. Both HIPPL and LIUV treatments elicit local responses irrespective of the treatment orientation and tomato fruit, therefore, require full surface irradiation. Furthermore, UV-C in the HIPPL source is not required for disease control or delayed ripening. It does, however, contribute approximately 50% towards the total observed effects. Investigations into the mechanisms underpinning postharvest HIPPL and LIUV hormesis, on tomato fruit, identified that the expression of genes involved in plant hormone biosynthesis, defence, secondary metabolism and ripening were affected. This indicates that disease control is achieved through induced resistance. Changes to expression, following treatment, were highly similar for both HIPPL and LIUV treatments and were mediated by salicylic acid, jasmonic acid and ethylene. This may lead to broad range resistance against necrotrophic and biotrophic pathogens as well as abiotic stresses and herbivorous pests. Recently, the exposure of foliage to UV-C has been shown to induce resistance against B. cinerea on Arabidopsis thaliana. The horticultural applications of such treatments, however, have not been explored. Pre-harvest treatments of lettuce in the glasshouse showed variation in damage threshold and optimal treatment to control disease following LIUV and HIPPL treatment. Further sources of variation included the cultivar, pathogen of interest and the point that treatment was applied during the year. Using a controlled environment allowed seasonal variation to be mitigated and both HIPPL and LIUV treatments controlled disease against B. cinerea. For pre-harvest treatments to be a success in the glasshouse, further studies into how both biotic and abiotic factors influence treatment is required. To circumvent the problems associated with pre-harvest treatments and environmental variation in the glasshouse, LIUV seed treatments were performed on tomato. Control of B. cinerea was established with an approximately 10% reduction in incidence and disease progression with a 4 kJ/m2 treatment. When monitoring the effect of treatment on germination and early seedling development it was also identified that an 8 kJ/m2 treatment led to biostimulation of germination and root and shoot growth.


Great Britain, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).



  • Aeronautical, Automotive, Chemical and Materials Engineering


  • Chemical Engineering


© George Scott

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.