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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Wenatchee, Washington » Physiology and Pathology of Tree Fruits Research » Research » Research Project #445257

Research Project: Benefits of and Barriers to Dynamic Controlled Atmosphere (DCA) Storage: Analyses Needed for Technology Uptake by the U.S. Apple Industry

Location: Physiology and Pathology of Tree Fruits Research

Project Number: 2094-43000-008-047-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Oct 1, 2023
End Date: Sep 14, 2024

1. Develop best management practices for handling DCA stored apple fruit. 2. Understand how the extreme modification of oxygen by DCA affects respiratory metabolism, ripening biology, and disorder development of stored apple fruit. 3. Understand how modifications in ripening biology resulting from DCA storage are perceived and valued in consumer sensory testing and by storage practitioners. 4. Create a decision support tool, based on analyses of economic and sociological factors, to inform investment in DCA technology. 5. Translate research findings into communication outputs for postharvest and horticultural scientific, educational, and practitioner communities.

Objective 1: The development of best management practices for handling DCA treated fruit will integrate information generated from biological, sensory, and economic data from research objectives 2, 3, and 4, respectively. The initial step is to implement surveys to determine the level of familiarity with DCA. We will engage with current DCA practitioners and document their current management practices. The data collected from the research on objectives 2-4 will then be used to flesh out the management practices currently in place, adding new insights and recommendations for practices to optimize fruit quality and production efficiency. Objective 2: Fruit responses to low O2, elevated CO2, and ethylene action will be investigated using standard and state-of-the-art analyses. The lower oxygen limit (LOL) and its year-to-year and regional variability of both traditional and premium cultivars will be performed. Low O2 levels will be applied in combination with a range in CO2 concentrations to understand the interplay between these two gases. Fruit from Eastern and Western regions will be evaluated for quality changes and disorders, primarily focusing on newly released cultivars such as ‘Cosmic Crisp’ and ‘RubyFrost’ as well as critical high-volume cultivars such as ‘Gala’ and ‘Honeycrisp’. Objective 3: The degree to which stressful atmospheres impact the perception of visual, olfactory, taste, and textural quality attributes will be determined and described both quantitatively and qualitatively for fruit from Objective 2. Consumer panel evaluations and instrumental aroma and fruit quality analyses will be interwoven to permit us to appreciate advantages and limitations of this new technology. Objective 4: The primary economic objective is to evaluate the costs and benefits associated with the adoption of the dynamic controlled atmosphere (DCA) storage technology for the U.S. apple industry. We will focus on the economic implications of adoption for growers, storage operators, fruit marketers, retailers, and consumers and assess the direct economic implications of adopting DCA for Eastern and Western US storage operators. We will perform a dynamic cost-benefit analysis and carry out a series of market simulations using an equilibrium displacement model to assess the potential market effects throughout the supply chain. Objective 5: The translation of information generated by this project to industry stakeholders and scientific peers will employ print and web-based platforms to disseminate educational bulletins and other outreach products. Important among the outputs is a decision support tool that will assist storage entities in decisions related to technology uptake. We will conduct online and in-person formal extension programs, including industry stakeholder discussions, in association with each cooperator institution. We will direct newsworthy outcomes to regional and national fruit industry-oriented print and online media.