The potential of post-harvest potassium silicate dips to mitigate chilling injury on citrus fruit.
The South African Citrus Industry is the second largest exporter of citrus, after Spain. The industry is under pressure to supply high quality fruit as well as to expand into new, high paying markets. However, high paying markets such as Japan and the USA require cold sterilised fruit as obligatory quarantine treatments against Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata) in order to reduce any possible spread of the pest. Citrus fruit originated from tropical climates and hence are chilling susceptible. Chilling injury symptoms appear as dark brown spots, pitting and/or decay when fruit are transferred to shelf temperatures; thus reducing the marketability of citrus fruit. Therefore, there is need for methods to mitigate chilling injury. Previous studies have shown silicon to mitigate many forms of stress without any hazardous effect on human health. Thus, the aim of the study was to investigate the potential of post-harvest silicon dips in mitigating chilling symptoms in citrus fruit. Briefly, fruit from two sources (Ukulinga Research Farm and Ithala Farm) were dipped in different silicon concentrations (0, 50, 150, and 250 mg ℓ-1) for 30 minutes and thereafter stored at -0.5 or 2⁰C for up to 28 days with weekly evaluation for chilling injury symptoms. Total antioxidants were determined using FRAP, ABTS, and DPPH assays under spectrophotometer. In addition, sugars, ascorbic acid, phenolics and flavonoids were analysed using High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). Fruit from Ukulinga Research Farm showed significantly higher total antioxidants (ascorbic acid total phenolics and specific flavonoids hesperidin and naringin) and sugars relative to fruit from Ithala Farm. Low concentrations of silicon dips significantly reduced the appearance of chilling injury symptoms by inducing an enzymatic conversion of glucose to ascorbic acid, thereby increasing the antioxidant capacity of chilling susceptible fruit. Moreover, silicon increased the concentration of total antioxidants, total phenolics and total flavonoids. High silicon concentrations had a negative effect on post-harvest quality of lemons by increasing fruit weight loss and electrolyte leakage, resulting in appearance of chilling symptoms. In conclusion, the study showed that silicon had potential to reduce chilling injury. However, high silicon concentrations raised concern, in particularly, on fruit appearance.
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