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Postharvest Biology of Fruits

Investigators
Lee, Kwangwon
Institutions
Cornell University
Start date
2008
End date
2013
Objective
Patulin, a carcinogenic fungal secondary metabolite in apple products, poses a major health threat to consumers. We intend to find a practical manner in which to reduce food contamination during apple storage. We have two specific aims; 1) To Characterize light regulation of patulin production in Pennicillium expansum. 2) To develop a practical method for apple growers/industry to utilize light as a means of suppressing post-harvest mycotoxin expression.

Our first objective involves basic research to define the most beneficial lighting conditions for suppressing food contamination. This will lay the foundation to achieve our second objective - feasibly implementing the results of the research in a commercial context. The expected outcomes of the proposed project will satisfy one of the goals (Objective 2) of multi-state project NE1036, Develop or adapt postharvest strategies and technologies to improve quality and market competitiveness of emerging production systems, including organic, local, and small-scale.

The intended outcomes of the proposed project will also satisfy two goals of the research and extension priorities, agriculture & food systems and natural resources and environment. Patulin, a carcinogenic fungal secondary metabolite in apple products, posses a major health threat for the consumers. An outcome of this proposed study is to provide an optimal and economical apple storage condition to reduce the risk of mycotoxin contamination to the apple product industry. Using light treatment as a method of controlling post-harvest diseases is a novel idea and is an environmentally friendly approach that needs to be tested. The potential benefits to apple growers, producers and consumers are exciting.

More information
NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: The New York apple industry is the second largest in the United States and the largest in the Northeast. Many different approaches have been taken to improve the quality and economic value of apples. The high value of apples justifies the usage of expensive, controlled atmosphere facilities. Control of post-harvest diseases with previously effective fungicides is now failing due to the appearance of pesticide-resistant strains. We are proposing a highly collaborative project that will address the problem and apply the knowledge for the farmers. We will characterize light regulation of patulin production in Pennicillium expansum and also develop a practical method for apple growers/industry to utilize light as a means of suppressing post-harvest mycotoxin expression. An outcome of this proposed study is to provide an optimal and economical apple storage condition to reduce the risk of mycotoxin contamination to the apple product industry. Using light treatment as a method of controlling post-harvest diseases is a novel idea and is an environmentally friendly approach that needs to be tested. The potential benefits to apple growers, producers and consumers are exciting.

APPROACH:
Objective 1: We will characterize the lighting conditions optimal for patulin suppression: the functional action spectrums, wavelength and amount of light necessary, and effects of constant vs. pulsed light. We will study the levels of patulin production and of key enzymes' expression under different wavelengths of light: near-UV, blue, green, red, far-red, and solar radiation. Once we narrow down the specific range of active wavelength of light, we will test how much light is required for suppression. The effects of light pulse vs. constant light exposure will be tested.
Objective 2: Our preliminary data suggest that incandescent light generates heat, and this heightened temperature is a condition conducive to fungal growth/development. Thus, we need to find a way to deliver light without heat; it should be economical, practical and scalable. We will focus on two approaches; utilizing LED (light emitting-diode) lights and Fiber Optic Light fibers that meet our criteria.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
View this project
Project number
NYC-153843
Accession number
216511
Categories
Bacterial Pathogens
Chemical Contaminants
Natural Toxins
Risk Assessment, Management, and Communication
Commodities
Produce