Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: PHYSIOLOGICAL AND GENETIC BASIS OF POSTHARVEST QUALITY AND PHYTONUTRIENT CONTENT OF FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
2006 Annual Report


1.What major problem or issue is being resolved and how are you resolving it (summarize project aims and objectives)? How serious is the problem? Why does it matter?
Producers of fresh fruit and vegetables face increased production costs and international market competition and must maximize marketability by offering high quality produce that is also high in phytonutrients. An understanding of the types and amounts of antioxidants in small fruits and in other commodities such as watermelon increase the demand and fresh market value of these and other horticultural produce. Market niches are available for some highly perishable crops, such as blackberries and other small fruits, if appropriate germplasm, production, and postharvest technology can be developed and utilized to prolong shelf life. Additionally, successful isolation of antioxidant compounds and manipulation of antioxidant contents in fruits may lead to new markets for value-added products.

The project has three specific goals:.
1)Determine the physiology and develop technology necessary to extend the shelf life, marketability, and phytonutrient content of highly perishable fruits;.
2)Elucidate factors important in altering the phytonutrient content of fruits and vegetables by determining how environment, production, and storage alter phytonutrient content in fruits and vegetables and how molecular biology and conventional breeding can be used to alter and improve quality and carotenoid content of fruit, using watermelon as a model; and.
3)Develop food-grade formulations for extraction and stabilization of aqueous-based lycopene for extended shelf life.

The research to be undertaken falls under National Program 306 - Quality and Utilization of Agricultural Products, and addresses goals of Component 1a, b, c, d 'Quality Characterization, Preservation and Enhancement,' and 2b, 'New Processes, New Uses, and Value-added Biobased Products,' as described in the National Program Action Plan. Specifically, these are: 1a) Definition and basis for quality; 1b) Methods to evaluate and predict quality; 1c) Factors and processes that affect quality; 1d) Preservation and/or enhancement of quality and marketing; and 2b) New uses for agricultural byproducts.

The research also contributes to National Program Area 301 - Plant, Microbial, and Insect Genetic Research, Genomics, and Genetic Improvement, Components 1.1, Genetic Resource Management and 2.1, Genomic Characterization and Genetic Improvement. This project will use established and new methods to characterize and classify genetic material, and apply new biotechnology to support the development of improved germplasm.


2.List by year the currently approved milestones (indicators of research progress)
Year 1 (FY 2005) 1. Determine Autumn Olive shelf life, respiration, and ethylene production. 2. Determine effects of UV-C on shelf life of blueberries and blackberries. 3. Evaluate blackberry and blueberry germplasm for storage quality. 4. Explore carotenoid profile of multiple watermelon varieties. 5. Initiate studies on carotenoids in non-red watermelon. 6. Determine the postharvest life and quality of organically produced green bell peppers. 7. Determine environment and germplasm effects (final year) on antioxidant content of raspberry germplasm. 8. Determine effectiveness of soil fertility treatments on watermelon quality. 9. Initiate crosses among low sugar watermelon fruit. 10. Study interaction of lycopene with aqueous detergents and initiate main-effects design study of stabilization of lycopene in water. 11. Initiate central composite design experiments on stable aqueous formulations of lycopene.

Year 2 (FY 2006) 1. Continue studies on Autumn Olive and pursue identification and quantification of phenolic compounds in this fruit. 2. Continue evaluations on blackberry and blueberry storage quality. 3. Determine ripeness effects on carotenoid changes in watermelon. 4. Publish studies on antioxidant content of raspberry germplasm. 5. Develop methodology for quick tests for carotenoids in cucurbits.

Year 3 (FY 2007) 1. Conclude studies on bell peppers and prepare manuscript. 2. Finish studies on production fertility and watermelon quality and prepare report. 3. Transfer technology on antioxidant content of raspberries. 4. Report on the sequenced carotenoid pathway genes in watermelon. 5. Complete central composite design of stable aqueous formulations. 6. Initiate main-effect design studies on dry formulations of lycopene.

Year 4 (FY 2008) 1. Determine primary factors affecting shelf life of blackberries and Autumn Olive. 2. Report on the similarity of watermelon carotenoid pathway to that of tomatoes, and lycopene pathway gene expression in watermelon. 3. Initiate and conduct central composite design for dry formulations of lycopene. 4. Initiate patent or CRADA development for natural lycopene powder.

Year 5 (FY 2009) 1. Finish studies and transfer technology on blackberries, blueberries, and watermelon. 2. Finish studies and transfer technology on carotenoid changes. 3. Release conventional high carotenoid breeding lines and low sugar watermelon lines to seed companies. 4. Publish results of dry formulations for stable, food-grade lycopene if patent application denied.


4a.List the single most significant research accomplishment during FY 2006.
Watermelons Held at Room Temperature Gain in Carotenoid Content Watermelons are high in lycopene, a pigment of interest in antioxidant research due to its ability to neutralize free oxygen radicals before cell damage is caused. There is little information on the changes in carotenoids in watermelon following harvest. Scientists at the South Central Agricultural Research Laboratory in Lane, OK, held seeded and seedless watermelons at room temperature and in refrigeration for two weeks to determine changes in carotenoid content. A slight loss in lycopene and beta carotene was found in fruit held in refrigeration, while a 20 to 80 percent gain in lycopene and beta carotene was found in watermelons held at room temperature. Published results show that fruit antioxidant status can be altered by postharvest treatment and that carotenoid synthesis in watermelon continues after harvest. This information may be useful in determining effective strategies for increasing natural lycopene content in fruit. (The research addresses NP306)


4b.List other significant research accomplishment(s), if any.
Raspberries Show Wide Range of Antioxidant Content A few varieties of red raspberry have been found to exhibit strong anticancer properties and are currently being used in clinical trials for esophageal and rectal cancer. The amount of variation among varieties and production environments in total phenolics and total anthocyanin of raspberries is unknown. In cooperation with the University of Arkansas, Oregon State University, and Cornell University, and researchers at South Central Agricultural Research Laboratory, Lane, OK, analyzed eighty raspberry selections for total phenolic and anthocyanin content to determine effects of production environment and genetics on antioxidant content. Purple, black, and some red-fruited raspberries were generally highest in antioxidants, and some varieties were highly sensitive to production environment. All varieties were relatively high in antioxidants, compared to other fruit, and this information will help in developing a functional food market for raspberries. (The research addresses NP306)

Watermelon Varieties Vary in Carotenoid Content The pigment in red-fleshed watermelon is composed primarily of lycopene and beta carotene, which are of interest to medical researchers for their anticancer properties. Fifty red-fleshed watermelon varieties, including seedless and seeded types, were analyzed for lycopene, beta carotene, and phytofluene content by scientists at the South Central Agricultural Research Laboratory, Lane, OK, to determine the range of the pigment content among commercially available watermelons. Seedless watermelons contained more lycopene than seeded types, a few varieties were unusually high in beta carotene, and several varieties were extremely high in lycopene. This information will help growers select varieties known to be high in lycopene, and will aid breeders who are interested in developing new high pigment watermelons. (The research addresses NP306)

Low-Sugar Watermelon Line Developed Watermelon is high in lycopene and Vitamins C and A, and also high in sugars. Individuals interested in limiting sugar/carbohydrate intake avoid eating watermelon or reduce their consumption. Low-sugar watermelon were developed using classical breeding methods at the South Central Agricultural Research Laboratory, Lane, OK. Selections on breeding lines were performed to increase the consistency of the low sugar high lycopene expression in these lines. Release of a low-sugar watermelon line will lead to development of a niche market for this fruit. (The research addresses NP306)

A Rapid Method for Total Carotene Content of Yellow Watermelon Developed B-carotene is a precursor of vitamin A and provides the orange color of many fruits and vegetables. Plant breeders and consumers want to know the amount of beta carotene, but this is a labor-intensive method that requires hazardous solvents. A simple, inexpensive and rapid method that detects beta-carotene content in cantaloupe without use of organic solvents was developed for growers, breeders, and scientists interested in carotene content by researchers at the South Central Agricultural Research Laboratory, Lane, OK. This technology gives the cantaloupe industry a simple method that will lead to replacement of visual ratings for orange color/carotenoid content with more reliable beta carotene data. (The research addresses NP306)


4c.List significant activities that support special target populations.
Small acreage growers learn about horticultural developments: Scientists fully participated in extension tours, field days, and agricultural conferences where technology was transferred to primarily small acreage growers. Scientists actively interact with local organic growers to help with marketing and production issues in fruit and vegetable production. Results and application of research projects have also been presented to growers, scientists, extension, and industry personnel during visits to the South Central Agricultural Research Laboratory, at grower meetings, and at scientific meetings.

Women learn about their importance in horticultural research: Scientists and support staff developed a display, helped organize, and interacted with the Oklahoma Women in Agriculture program to exchange information on the career opportunities for women in horticulture and agriculture.


5.Describe the major accomplishments to date and their predicted or actual impact.
The research addresses NP306 and NP 301. Watermelon contains at least two plant chemicals that are associated with prevention of cancer and heart disease. Lycopene, the red pigment found in tomatoes and watermelon, has been measured in at least 80 watermelon varieties and has been successfully isolated for incorporation into food products as a natural ingredient. Further, citrulline, an amino acid found in very few plant sources and associated with improved blood circulation, was found to be available from watermelon juice when given to subjects in a clinical trial.

Storage and fruit quality work on blackberries in cooperation with the University of Arkansas has greatly advanced the planting of blackberries in the Southeastern U.S. Documentation of the sweetness of these varieties was used to aid marketing by private growers and has resulted in the projected growth of 500 more acres of these high-value varieties ($20,000/acre) over a three-state area.

A novel carotenoid measurement method has eliminated the use of hexane and other organic solvents. Lycopene and beta carotene are carotenoid pigments present in fruit such as melons, tomatoes, and grapefruit. Multiple experiments with fruits have successfully demonstrated that a fruit puree measured with scanning colorimetry can accurately quantify and separate the carotenoid pigments in fruit. Previously, carotenoids were considered measurable only if extracted into solvents such as hexane, acetone, and ethanol, which are expensive and environmental hazards.

Accomplishments made under this project are consistent with relevant milestones listed in the Project Plan, and with research components relevant to National Programs 301 and 306 Action Plans. Accomplishments under this project contribute to the ARS Strategic Plan Goal 1.2, Performance Measure 1.1.2, in that the project accomplishments contribute substantially to attainment of the Agency FY 2007 target of providing consumers with convenient, highly acceptable, healthy foods.


6.What science and/or technologies have been transferred and to whom? When is the science and/or technology likely to become available to the end-user (industry, farmer, other scientists)? What are the constraints, if known, to the adoption and durability of the technology products?
South Central Agricultural Research Laboratory researchers provided information to grower groups and consumers about the phytonutrient benefits of watermelon and small fruits in presentations to grower groups and to numerous email requests by consumers.

College students learn about agriculture. Student interns from USDA-supported and grant-supported projects work at the South Central Agricultural Research Laboratory on specific scientific projects in cucurbits. Their experiences are transferred to the public as technical presentations at state meetings and as reports for college credit to their respective departments.


7.List your most important publications in the popular press and presentations to organizations and articles written about your work. (NOTE: List your peer reviewed publications below).
The Farmer-Stockman. January 2005. Oklahoma studies yield low-sugar watermelons. p. 18.

GMPRO. July 2005. Scientist work to create low-sugar watermelons. p. 14.

The Grower. March 2005. Mini-melons pack big nutritional punch. p. 38.

HortiMag, PHDEB. April 2005. Low-sugar melons.

Oikonomakos, I. 2005. Maturity and temperature influence on lycopene distribution during filtration processing of red-fleshed watermelons. Master of Science Thesis, Oklahoma State University.

Perkins Veazie, P.M. 2005. Health benefits of strawberries. The Strawberry Grower. p. 14-15.

Perkins-Veazie, P. 2005. Watermelons and Health. Keynote speaker, National Melon Growers, Townsville, Australia.

Wood, M., McGinnis, L., Core, J. 2006. Grapes! Our never ending crush. Agricultural Research Magazine, April 2006, p. 4-8.

Davis, A. 2006. Biodiversity and Germplasm Conservation. Invited speaker for the Indian Nation Audubon Society, Tulsa, OK.

Davis, A. 2006. Low-sugar watermelon.

Just-Food, http://www.just-food.com/article.aspx?art=59424&type=1

Checkbiotech.org, http://www.checkbiotech.org/root/index.cfm?fuseaction= news&doc_id=9748&start=1&co

Crops & Markets American Vegetable Grower, http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3869/is_200503/ai_n13507097

Melon Industry News, http://www.rinconpublishing.com/industry_news/melon_news.html

Buds and Bugs, http://72.14.203.104/search?q=cache:ejg28n46oFMJ:web1.msue.msu.edu/programs/

The Latest Dirt, http://cecontracosta.ucdavis.edu/newsletterfiles/Newsletter6132.pdf

SeedQuest, http://www.seedquest.com/News/releases/2004/december/10671.htm

Farm Shows, http://www.hpj.com/farmshows/fsedit2/Lowsugarwatermelons.cfm

Perkins-Veazie, P. 2006. The hidden health benefits of small fruits. Keynote speaker, Field Day, University of Arkansas Southwest Research and Extension Center, Hope, AR.

Perkins-Veazie, P. 2006. Storage of watermelon at different temperatures Paul Harvey News (July 27, 2006). New York Times (August 1, 2006) http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/01/health/nutrition/01nutr.html?_r=1 Yahoo News (July 30, 2006) http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060726/us_nm/watermelon_dc Webmd (August 1, 2006) http://www.webmd.com/content/article/125/116078.htm Seatllepi (July 31, 2006) http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/health/279301_condor31.html?source-rss

Leader Times (August 1, 2006) http://www.pittsburglive.com/x/leadertimes/print_463656.html

CBS News Healthwatch (July 28, 2006) http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/07/28/health/webmd/main1845989.shtml

MSNBC (July 28, 2006) http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14046562/wid/11915773/


Review Publications
Perkins Veazie, P.M., Collins, J.K., Davis, A.R., Roberts, B.W. 2006. Carotenoid content of 50 watermelon cultivars. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 54:2593-2597.

Collins, J.K., Perkins Veazie, P.M., Roberts, B.W. 2006. Lycopene: From plants to humans. HortScience. 41(5):1135–1144.

Davis, A.R., Webber III, C.L., Perkins Veazie, P.M., Russo, V.M., Edelson, J.V. 2006. Organic watermelon variety trial using low and high input production methods. Proceedings of the 25th Annual Horticulture Industries Show. p. 97-100.

Collins, J.K., Davis, A.R., Perkins Veazie, P.M., Adams, E. 2005. Artificially sweetened low sugar watermelon found acceptable by Native American consumer groups [abstract]. 2005 Annual Meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists. Paper No. 36E-79.

Levi, A., Davis, A.R., Hernandez, A., Wechter, W.P., Trebitsh, T. 2006. Developing and mapping of ESTS for watermelon [abstract]. Plant and Animal Genome Conference Proceedings. P25.

Oikonomakos, I.P., Maness, N.O., Chrz, D., Mcglynn, W., Perkins Veazie, P.M. 2005. Maturity influences lycopene segregation during filtration processing of red-fleshed watermelons [abstract]. HortScience. 40(4):1030.

Davis, A.R., Webber III, C.L., Perkins Veazie, P.M., Collins, J.K., Russo, V.M. 2006. Impact of variety and production method on yield and quality of organically grown watermelon [abstract]. HortScience. 41(4):1080.

Bang, H., Kim, S., Leskovar, D.I., Davis, A.R., King, S.R. 2006. Duplication of the phytoene synthase gene in the carotenoid biosynthetic pathway of watermelon [abstract]. HortScience. 41(4):1007.

Takeda, F., Hokanson, S.C., Swartz, H.J., Perkins Veazie, P.M. 2006. Strawberry transplant production and performance in annual plasticulture system. Acta Horticulturae. 708: 213-216.

Levi, A., Thomas, C.E., Thies, J.A., Simmons, A.M., Xu, Y., Zhang, X., Reddy, O., Davis, A.R., King, S., Wehner, T., Wehner, T. 2005. Genetic linkage map for watermelon: Segregation and distribution of DNA markers [abstract]. HortScience. 40(3):872.

Perkins Veazie, P.M., Collins, J.K., Siddiq, M., Dolan, K.D. 2006. Juice and carotenoid yield from processed watermelon [abstract]. HortScience. 41:518.

Perkins Veazie, P.M., Collins, J.K. 2006. UVC light treatment reduces decay of blueberries [abstract]. HortScience. 41(4):1043.

Perkins Veazie, P.M., Collins, J.K., Roberts, W. 2006. Lycopene content of organically grown tomatoes [abstract]. HortScience. 41:503.

Perkins Veazie, P.M., Collins, J.K. 2006. Carotenoid content of intact watermelons after storage. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. 54:5868-5874.

Davis, A.R., Collins, J.K., Fish, W.W., Webber III, C.L., Perkins Veazie, P.M., Tadmor, Y.K. 2006. A rapid hexane-free method for analyzing total carotenoid content in canary yellow-fleshed watermelon. In: Cucurbitaceae 2006, September 17-21, 2006, Asheville, North Carolina. p. 545-552.

King, S.R., Davis, A.R. 2006. A comparison of novel grafting methods for watermelon in high-wind areas. In: Cucurbitaceae 2006, September 17-21, 2006, Asheville, North Carolina. p. 258-264.

Fish, W.W., Davis, A.R. 2006. Spectrophotometric quantitation of watermelon lycopene extracted into aqueous sodium dodecyl sulfate. In: Cucurbitaceae 2006, September 17-21, 2006, Asheville, North Carolina. p. 1-8.

Perkins Veazie, P.M., Collins, J.K., Siddiq, M., Dolan, K. 2006. Changes in carotenoid content during processing of watermelon for juice concentrates. In: Cucurbitaceae 2006, September 17-21, 2006, Asheville, North Carolina. p. 585-590.

Perkins Veazie, P.M., Collins, J.K., Huber, D., Maness, N. 2006. Ripening changes in mini watermelon fruit. In: Cucurbitaceae 2006, September 17-21, 2006, Asheville, North Carolina. p. 578-584.

Last Modified: 4/24/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page