Skip to main content
ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Hilo, Hawaii » Daniel K. Inouye U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center » Tropical Crop and Commodity Protection Research » Research » Research Project #433586

Research Project: Postharvest Technology and Nutrition Studies for Hawaii Specialty Crops and Fruits

Location: Tropical Crop and Commodity Protection Research

Project Number: 2040-43000-018-011-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 1, 2018
End Date: Aug 31, 2023

The overall goal of the project is to develop research and technology that benefit Hawaii specialty crops through improved postharvest and nutritional quality of fresh and processed products. Specific objectives are to: 1) Identify and quantify the major nutrients and phytochemicals in tropical postharvest commodities across different varieties, and further study the effect of the food matrix on major nutrients and phytochemical bioavailability; 2) Investigate physiological, candidate genes and signaling pathways that are responsible for bioactive compounds in tropical crops; 3) Assess the prebiotic activity of dietary fiber and anthocyanins in tropical crops (taro, sweet potato) and determine the effect of processing conditions on these parameters; 4) Develop novel processing technologies to improve the quality, nutrition and safety of processed foods, while reducing energy requirements.

Tropical commodities are known to be rich sources of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and bioactive phytochemicals, all of which may provide beneficial health effects. The approach includes characterizing nutrients and bioactive phytochemicals in tropical commodities; assessing the effects of processing on target bioactive compounds; and determining the in vitro bioavailability of bioactive compounds. The team will investigate candidate genes and signaling pathways that regulate functional/bioactive nutrients and sensory parameters. Nutritional studies will be conducted for target bioactive compounds for human health and disease intervention. Dietary fiber and anthocyanins in taro and sweetpotato will be quantified and evaluated for prebiotic activity with probiotic and non-probiotic enteric bacteria, and the effects of processing conditions on prebiotic activity will be determined. Various novel technologies and combinations will be tested for processed foods, with an emphasis on inactivating both pre- and post-harvest microbial contaminants and reducing the intensity of thermal and non-thermal processing to improve food quality and reduce energy requirements. Examples include microbe-repellant nano-engineered surfaces for biofilm reduction, mild heat (ohmic) approaches, pulsed light/cold plasma, ozonation, and vacuum far infrared drying. New technologies will be transferred to scientists and stakeholders for the improvement of tropical crop quality, nutrition, and postharvest processing.