The XII National Symposium and
The meeting, organized by the Center for Scientific and Technological Research of Extremadura (Cicytex), served to publicize the progress in research and innovation in post-harvest horticulture, studies and proposals aimed in many cases at the use of sustainable techniques and technologies.
Spain is the leading exporter of fresh fruit and vegetables in the European Union, and Extremadura is one of Spain’s main export regions. The needs of the sector are aimed at increasing consumption, which has been reduced in recent years; extend product life to reach Asian markets, where sea transit from Europe takes a month; preserve quality, taste and aromas; and crops resistant to pests, rot and other pathologies.
In this regard, a professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, Juan Pablo Zoffoli, commented that the success of exports is based on the segregation of products so that they arrive in good condition according to the destination, consumer requirements, preferences. the western market is not the same as the eastern market; preservation and packaging technology in transport; and product differentiation. In this sense, intermediaries have a fundamental role and must know the product they are selling. He explained that the main market of Chile is China, the time they work is as follows: 20 days to transport the goods to the United States, between 30 and 35 days to arrive in Europe and 40 to 50 days in transit for the markets. East.
On the other hand, according to the professor at Miguel Hernández University (Orihuela, Alicante), Daniel Valero, the losses in quantity and quality that occur between the collection and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables are estimated between 5% and 25% in developed countries and 20% to 50 % in developing countries, depending on the product, variety and handling conditions. The challenge of post-harvest technology is to ensure that the product reaches the consumer with a quality similar to that at the time of harvest and, if possible, with better organoleptic properties. Likewise, it is necessary to use sustainable treatments and techniques, from an economic and ecological point of view, non-destructive, which reduce losses and based on food safety criteria.
Professor Valero and Professor Francisco Artés (Polytechnic University of Cartagena), guest lecturers, explained that it is necessary to advance in alternative technologies that meet these requirements, as an example they cited the study of ultraviolet radiation and its effect on disinfection, the removal of microorganisms and the increase of the content of bioactive compounds in the product; as well as the effectiveness of edible coatings to extend shelf life compared to the use of plastic materials.
At the symposium, various papers were presented on the application of natural phenolic extracts from plants to improve conservation; edible coatings; and the use of active packaging with antimicrobial effect with black mustard seeds and other herbal compounds. This latest work was developed by the Cicytex Vegetable area team.
On the other hand, studies of other preharvest techniques are presented, such as controlled deficit irrigation, applied in non-critical stages for fruit development, important for water conservation; alternatives to fertigation such as the use of calcium sulfate to reduce nitrate use; and non-destructive technologies to know the optimal harvest time.
In the use of fast technologies, the project presented by Professor Ángel Medina, who currently works at Granfield University (England), stood out. This includes the development of a system, based on non-invasive photonic sensors, to detect, under real operating conditions in fruit and vegetable plants, rot problems before they occur. Among other advantages, it enables the separation of batches of fruits and vegetables to avoid the spread of contamination, facilitates decision-making on the release of the product into circulation and its sale; and reduce losses. The system, which is still under development, is based on the use of volatile compounds as biomarkers of fungal infection.
Professor Manuel Jamilena from the University of Almería offered a conference that opened a block dedicated to the physiology and biotechnology of ripening and post-harvest fruit and vegetables. This is aimed at using genomic tools to improve the post-harvest quality of Curcubitaceae (squash) fruits. He emphasized the importance of functional genomics for knowing the genes involved in post-harvest processes and discovering their functions: those that regulate resistance to cold, oxidative stress or resistance to pathogens. Jamilena and her research team worked for three years on a collection of zucchini mutants, composed of more than 3,751 lines, for phenomic and genomic characterization of agronomic interest. The main goal of this collection is to identify mutants that are resistant to cold stress.
Another guest lecturer in the Physiology and Biotechnology of Ripening and Postharvest block was researcher Jordi Giné, from the Institute for Research and Technology of Agriculture in Catalonia (IRTA). In his presentation, he referred to the extension of the shelf life of apple and stone fruits using 1-MCP (1-methylcyclopropene). This is an inhibitor of ethylene synthesis and perception, the use of which has been extended to many species, which facilitates the reduction of firmness loss, delays the decomposition of sucrose and inhibits to some extent the occurrence of cold damage. He noted that recent studies show that 1-MCP treatments can reduce the incidence of rot caused by certain pathogens.