Impact of environmental conditions during distribution on tomato fruit quality and decay

Sharon Dea, Jeffrey K. Brecht, M. Cecilia Do Nascimento Nunes, Jean-Pierre Emond, Khe V. Chau


Temperature and relative humidity (RH) measurements from two commercial shipments of tomatoes by sea from Puerto Rico to Florida and subsequently within Florida by truck were used to evaluate the consequences of deviations from ideal environmental conditions on fruit quality. Temperature and RH measured at different locations within containers of tomatoes varied from 11.2 to 30.3 °C and from 55.4% to 98.5%, respectively. Laboratory simulations were conducted during two Florida tomato seasons using the 10% most developmentally advanced fruit from lots of commercially packed mature-green tomatoes, which were considered to be the most likely fruit to show effects of non-ideal conditions. Control, bruised, and inoculated (Erwinia carotovora) tomatoes were stored at the best and the worst temperature and RH combinations recorded during the shipping trials, as well as at 12 °C plus 90% RH. Following the simulated shipping period, all fruit were evaluated subjectively for visual and aroma quality, bruised and inoculated fruit were evaluated for incidence and severity of bruising and decay, and control fruit for color, titratable acidity (TA), pH, soluble solids, and ascorbic acid. The simulated worst shipping conditions significantly increased shriveling, softening, and decay incidence, and negatively affected aroma. Virtually all of the inoculated tomatoes held in the simulated worst conditions developed severe decay; however, visual quality was otherwise not affected by shipping conditions. Other than no effect of simulated shipping conditions on TA and pH, no conclusions could be drawn regarding fruit composition since the results varied between repeated experiments. No significant differences in external color were found between the simulated shipping conditions.

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Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc.     ISSN 0886-7283