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Christopher Ference sanitizes a whole mango while Keith Williamson dips mango pieces in an edible coating. Link to photo information
Technician Christopher Ference (above left) sanitizes a whole mango before cutting it into pieces while technician Keith Williamson dips the mango pieces in an edible coating designed to prolong the cut fruit’s shelf life. Click the image for more information about it.

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U.S.-Thai Scientists Cooperate in Tropical Fruit Research

By Alfredo Flores
October 15, 2007

A unique collaboration between Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Winter Haven, Fla., and counterparts at Chiang Mai University (CMU) and Siam University in Thailand aims at developing coatings and surface treatments to maintain the red color of lychee fruit and protect fresh-cut mango. The market for these and other tropical fruits is rapidly growing as consumers discover their unique tastes and nutritional value.

The U.S. researchers include horticulturist Liz Baldwin, plant physiologist Anne Plotto and microbiologist Jan Narciso—all at the ARS U.S. Citrus and Subtropical Products Research Laboratory (USCSPL) in Winter Haven. Exchanges between the U.S. and Thai scientists have been under way for about five years.

Most of the collaborative work has been done with Nithiya Rattanapanone, with the CMU faculty of agro-industry, who visited the USCSPL in 2003. The following year, Baldwin visited CMU to give a workshop on edible coatings for fruits and vegetables, and to work on developing coatings for cut mango.

In 2005, Usawadee Chanasut, a professor at CMU’s Postharvest Technology Institute, arrived at the USCSPL to work with ARS chemist John Manthey to determine the antioxidant potential of Thai eggplant. Chanasut is now finishing that study in Thailand.

Rattanapanone returned to the USCSPL in 2005-2006, to compare results from experiments there and in Thailand on edible coatings and other surface treatments for reducing browning of lychee peel. Several of Rattanapanone’s graduate students have also spent time at Winter Haven working on their doctoral theses research.

This ongoing collaboration has been mutually beneficial, providing, among other things, the opportunity for USCSPL and CMU scientists to research postharvest treatments for various tropical and subtropical commodities.

Kanjana Mahattanatawee, one of USCSPL’s former Thai postdocs, studied tropical fruit flavor and phenolic compounds while at Winter Haven and is continuing this research at Siam University, where she has since joined the faculty. She plans to return to Winter Haven soon for further collaborative studies.

Read more about the research in the October 2007 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific research agency.