A preliminary study on the effect of climatic conditions and fruit mineral concentration on the development of lenticel damage in 'Tommy Atkins' and 'Keitt' mangos (Mangifera indica L.) and rind pitting in 'Benny Valencia' oranges (Citrus sinensis).
The South African fresh fruit industry is a significant exporter, accounting for approximately 45% of the country’s agricultural exports. Of the total exported fruit in the 2005/06 season, 60% was subtropical fruit. However, certain physiological rind disorders such as mango lenticel damage and citrus rind pitting are frequently observed, reducing the commercial value of the fruit. This thesis deals with the epidemiology of these rind physiological disorders, in an attempt to obtain basic information that could serve as a guideline to predict and manage the fruit susceptibility to these disorders. The study further investigated the relative effects that certain pre-harvest factors have on the postharvest development of these disorders. Factors of particular interest were harvest maturity, climate and the mineral content of the fruit. Rind pitting is a physiological disorder of citrus that develops during storage. A study was conducted to investigate the relative effects that certain pre-harvest factors have on the post-harvest development of superficial rind pitting in ‘Benny Valencia’ oranges. Factors of particular interest were harvest maturity, climate and the mineral content of the fruit. In addition, trees were treated with two different formulations of nitrogen viz. limestone ammonium nitrate (LAN) and a slow release nitrogen fertilizer (Horticote®), during March 2006. The fruit were then sampled on a two-weekly basis over a period of three months. On each sampling date a set of quality related readings, such as juice sugar and titratable acid concentration were taken, after which the mineral concentration of the exocarp and mesocarp was measured. Fruit were also stored under export simulation conditions. The results indicate that fruit from trees that received additional N were more susceptible to rind pitting than those from control trees. Of the two N applications, fruit from trees that received slow release N were more susceptible to rind pitting than fruit from trees that received the LAN treatment. Another important observation made was that the nitrogen concentration of oranges from trees that received extra nitrogen fertilizer was lower than that from the controls. In addition, experimental fruit were smaller than control fruit. Fruit from trees that received the slow release nitrogen treatment were smallest. A sink/source hypothesis aimed at explaining this phenomenon has been formulated and is currently being investigated. A number of control mechanisms are also being explored. Mango lenticel damage is a serious defect that occurs on the rind of the fruit. This condition causes fruit to attain a speckled appearance and become unattractive to the buyer. Each season, the disorder reduces the packout of fresh fruit by about 16%. Several preharvest factors play a critical role in the postharvest development of lenticel damage. Preliminary studies have shown that the incidence of lenticel damage has some relationship to fruit moisture and fruit nutrient concentration, depending on which of these factors first achieve a critical threshold. A study was conducted to develop appropriate skin moisture content parameters to predict lenticel damage potential before harvest. The study further aimed to provide certain biological markers regarding appropriate nitrogen fertilization practices to reduce lenticel damage. To do this, two trials were conducted approximately a month before harvest. Firstly, a plastic ground cover to restrict water supply was laid under ‘Tommy Atkins’ trees at Numbi Estates in the Hazyview area of the Mpumalanga province, South Africa. Secondly, additional nitrogen was applied as three different formulations, viz. limestone ammonium nitrate (LAN), potassium nitrate (KNO3), and a slow release nitrogen fertilizer under trade name Horticote®, to two ‘Tommy Atkins’ and two ‘Keitt’ orchards at Bavaria Estates in the Hoedspruit area of the Limpopo province, South Africa. Fruit samples were harvested, packed and stored at different intervals after rain during January 2006. With regard to lenticel damage on ’Tommy Atkins’ fruit from Numbi, there was no significant difference between the control and plastic cover treatments. However, when compared to fruit from other localities, the Numbi fruit had the highest incidence of lenticel damage, followed by the conventional orchard at Bavaria. The Numbi fruit, which had the highest incidence of lenticel damage, also had the highest pulp and skin nitrogen concentration. Of the four treatments at Bavaria, the LAN treatment had the highest incidence of lenticel damage, but the pulp and skin nitrogen concentrations of this treatment were comparable with the other treatments. The organic fruit had significantly lower lenticel damage incidence and also had the lowest pulp and rind nitrogen concentrations. Similarly, ‘Keitt’ results showed that the intensity of lenticel damage was significantly higher in the orchard that received additional nitrogen in the form of LAN. From the results it was, however, not possible to formulate nitrogen-lenticel damage correlations. The study failed to prove the case for a direct relationship between the disorder and with nitrogen, as there were no significant or consistent correlations with nitrogen content. An interesting relationship was nevertheless observed between lenticel damage and the time of harvest before and after rainfall. The results indicated that both ‘Tommy Atkins’ and ‘Keitt’ fruit become more susceptible to lenticel damage when harvested a day after rainfall and this gradually reduces afterwards. The effect of rainfall in this regard and a sink-source hypothesis arising from these observations are also discussed.
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