Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: September 18, 2002
Publication Date: August 20, 2002
Technical Abstract: Losses from postharvest diseases of fruits have been substantial at the storage, wholesale, retail, and consumer levels. Most of the fruit decay results from infection through wounds made during harvest and postharvest handling, but for some fruits, infection takes place in the orchard during the growing season, and remains latent. As fruit matures in storage, the pathogens become active again and invade fruit tissue. Fungicides have been, by far, the most widely used remedy against fruit decay because they are easy to apply and generally one fungicide is effective against most of the pathogens on a specific crop. But postharvest use of synthetic fungicides has been increasingly curtailed due to their perceived hazard to humans and the environment. None of the alternative methods developed during the past two decades have had the broad spectrum of activity as synthetic fungicides. Recently, biological control of postharvest diseases (BCPD) has emerged as a very effective alternative. In most cases it is based on bacterial or yeast antagonists naturally occurring on fruit. First commercial products have been registered and the use of biocontrol has been accepted by the fruit industry. Currently available biocontrol has some limitations and cannot be used under all circumstances. These limitations can be addressed by improving antagonists through physiological and genetic manipulation and using a mixture of antagonists, or combining biocontrol with other alternative methods which by themselves did provide adequate control, such as calcium infiltration, heat treatment, and substances generally regarded as safe (e.g., sodium carbonate, diluted ethanol, hydrogen peroxide). Knowing mechanisms of biocontrol would be very helpful in enhancing biocontrol, but so far, attaining this goal has been elusive. Private sector played the key role in commercializing the biocontrol agent. Memorandum of Understanding and CRADA agreements were the main vehicles used for transferring technology from the government laboratory to the private sector. Expansion of postharvest biocontrol research worldwide and the related successes create an optimistic picture for the future of BCPD of fruits.