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© Lunghammer – TU Graz
© Lunghammer – TU Graz

Fruits and vegetables pack lots of nutrition. But more than half of the produce harvested never makes it to consumers due to pests, plant diseases, and improper storage. Researchers from the Institute of Environmental Biotechnology at TU Graz in cooperation with the Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology and industrial partners have successfully tested ecological methods (i.e., hot water treatment [HWT] and biocontrol organisms) that improve the storage of apples and extend their shelf life, according to a press release.

In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, researchers from the Institute of Environmental Biotechnology at TU Graz successfully tested a method that significantly improves the shelf life of organic apples through the combined use of HWT and biocontrol organisms. “We infected organic apples with two of the most important putrefactive agents, then treated them with hot water and a biocontrol agent designed by us,” says researcher and PhD student Birgit Wassermann in the press release. “This combined approach enabled us to either kill the postharvest pathogens completely or to reduce the infection diameter to a maximum in about 60% of the apples treated in this way.”

The researchers conclude in the study that, “HWT-induced plant response diminished pathogen infection at industrial scale and showed an impact on the fungal composition. We suggest that the apple fruit is protected by either HWT or the inherent microbiome; however, presumable it is the combination of both, mediating disease resistance. Small-scale storage experiments applying HWT together with biological control agents provide further confirmation of the considerable potential of combining methods into one control strategy to reduce postharvest decay of apples. Moreover, harnessing the indigenous microbiota of fruits for a biological control approach is a promising and sustainable future strategy to prevent postharvest decay of fresh and stored produce.”

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