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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Kearneysville, West Virginia » Appalachian Fruit Research Laboratory » Innovative Fruit Production, Improvement, and Protection » Research » Research Project #433899

Research Project: Sustainable Strategies for Managing Postharvest Diseases of Fruit Crops

Location: Innovative Fruit Production, Improvement, and Protection

2018 Annual Report

Objective 1: Develop alternative systems for the management of postharvest diseases that can be used on a variety of fruit crops and production systems, including packinghouses, urban horticulture, vertical farming, and controlled environment growing systems. [NP303, C3, PS3B] • Sub-objective 1.A. Control of strawberry diseases using UV-C/dark Period/antagonist treatment. • Sub-objective 1.B. Control of postharvest brown rot of stone fruits. Objective 2: Develop microbiome-based approaches and molecular tools to increase postharvest disease resistance and/or decrease pathogen virulence. [NP303, C3, PS3B] • Sub-objective 2.A. Identification of molecular mechanisms responsible for resistance to the postharvest pathogens Penicillium expansum and Colletotrichum acutatum to facilitate the development of markers for use in screening for resistant crosses. • Sub-objective 2.B. Characterize the microbiome on fruit crops as it relates to pre-harvest management practices and postharvest treatments.

Research is focused on reducing the need to use postharvest fungicides in fruit production. It includes developing an integrated system to enhance control of Botrytis cinerea, Colletotrichum spp., and Podoshpaera aphanis in strawberry by combining UV-C irradiation with a dark period and application of biocontrol agents. The system is designed for field use and protective culture, including high tunnels and indoor urban agricultural production. The research will also determine the effect of UV-C/dark period/antagonist treatment on the quality of strawberry fruit. Genes associated with resistance to blue mold and anthracnose disease in wild apple germplasm will be determined, including the role of constitutive phenolic compounds, to facilitate the development of markers for use in screening for resistant crosses in apple breeding programs. Integrated control of brown rot disease of plums originating in wounds and from latent infections, currently an intractable disease control problem, will be developed using Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) substances and heat treatments. Amplicon-based analysis of the microbial community of apple fruit and strawberry fruit and leaves, and other fruit crops will be conducted to determine the impact of pre-harvest management practices and/or postharvest treatments on bacterial and fungal communities. This research is expected to identify safe and effective strategies that reduce disease without negatively impacting fruit quality and are based on the manipulation of the natural microflora or through the purposeful design of microbial consortia. Collectively, the results of the proposed research will directly and indirectly contribute to the provision of control alternatives based on “green” technologies to combat postharvest diseases of critical importance to fruit growers and processors. The developed technology will also address consumer demands to reduce synthetic chemical residues in food.

Progress Report
In collaboration with USDA-ARS entomologist at Kearneysville, West Virginia, studies were conducted on the effect of nighttime UV-C treatment of strawberry plants on mite populations in a high table production system. Results indicate that UV-C treatment can reduce mite population to economically acceptable levels.


Review Publications
Droby, S., Wisniewski, M.E. 2018. The fruit microbiome: a new frontier for postharvest biocontrol and postharvest biology. Postharvest Biology and Technology. 140:107-112.