Fungal infection and postharvest quality of blueberry fruit in relation to berry flesh type, harvest method, and postharvest biofumigation
Mehra, Lucky Kumar
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Postharvest fungal decay is a major concern in blueberry production. Because the risk of infection is increased by fruit bruising, which in turn is increased by machine-harvest, fruit from early-maturing, high-value southern highbush blueberries are not harvested mechanically for the fresh market. This may change fundamentally with the advent of southern highbush genotypes with crisp-textured berries, i.e., fruit with qualitatively firmer flesh and/or skin. In field experiments, machine-harvested crispy fruit had the same or lower natural decay incidence as hand-picked conventional fruit after cold storage. Across cultivar and harvest method treatments, decay incidence was inversely related to fruit firmness. Several plant essential oils were evaluated as postharvest biofumigants to manage fungal decay during cold storage. The plant oil-derived fungicide Sporatec, applied as a biofumigant, reduced decay significantly in most cases. However, biofumigation resulted in significant negative impacts on sensory attributes and no beneficial effects on antioxidant activity of treated berries.