Mulas and Schirra - Thermotherapy and post-harvest quality of horticultural commodities

Maurizio Mulas1* e Mario Schirra2
1 Dipartimento di Economia e Sistemi Arborei, Università di Sassari, via De Nicola 9, 07100 Sassari
2 Istitituto di Scienze delle Produzioni Alimentari, CNR, traversa La Crucca 3, Regione Baldinca, 07040 Li Punti (SS)

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Key words: fruits, vegetables, storage, disease control, nutritional value.

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Abstract

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The storage of the high nutritional quality of horticultural commodities, after harvest and during the marketing period, is a need in order to contribute to provide safe and sufficient food to the people all over the world. The food right is not only affirmed by the assurance of a sufficient energy or protein rate in the daily diet, but also by the integration of a variety of foods that may provide components of fundamental biological and nutritional relevance such as vitamins and minerals. In the last years, thermotherapy has been considered as a good control technology against the main postharvest losses of horticultural commodities: pathogen infections, pest infestations and physiological disorders. The loss of products is always high in the less developed countries. Moreover, the use of the thermotherapy is increasing because of the need to have commodities safe from residues of chemicals and because of the natural selection of pathogen strains resistant to the most used postharvest fungicides. The application of thermotherapy is frequently performed as a combination with other safe physical treatments or chemical compounds defined as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). The further development of thermotherapy application is possible by a detailed and careful definition of a specific protocol for any plant species, cultivar and possibly production area of the commodity. Today a medium-short time storage is required for the most of commodities and just for this requirement thermotherapy seems to be more appropriate. Positive and negative effects of thermotherapy on quality traits of horticultural crops include lack or insufficient control of postharvest disorders, direct damages as a consequence of the high temperatures, tissue senescence, increase and/or elicitation of certain compounds, including nutraceuticals. The storage and sometimes the increase of the market and nutritional properties of commodities is possible after thermotherapy application. However, more investigations have to be promoted regarding the effects of the temperature on biochemical composition and on related gene expression.

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