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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Kearneysville, West Virginia » Appalachian Fruit Research Laboratory » Innovative Fruit Production, Improvement, and Protection » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #366803

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

Location: Innovative Fruit Production, Improvement, and Protection

Title: The postharvest microbiome: the other half of sustainability

item Wisniewski, Michael
item DROBY, SAMIR - Volcani Center (ARO)

Submitted to: Biological Control
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/27/2019
Publication Date: 7/18/2019
Citation: Wisniewski, M.E., Droby, S. 2019. The postharvest microbiome: the other half of sustainability. Biological Control.

Interpretive Summary: Developing novel approaches/strategies to control postharvest diseases that are based on effective and safe alternatives to chemical fungicides is a challenging task that has not been yet achieved at a commercial level. Postharvest microbiome research represents a potential asset in the development of approaches to address food availability, quality, and sustainability. The ability to preserve the shelf life, quality, and safety of harvested produce would have a significant positive impact on the increasing demand for food as the human population increases and suitable production areas decrease. The value of the rhizosphere and foliar (phyllosphere) microbiome in enhancing disease and stress resistance has been clearly demonstrated, and significant progress has been made in the development of microbiome-based products that increase plant health and yield. This is evidenced by the industry-academic partnership in creating the Phytobiome Alliance. A concerted effort to better understand the value and impact of the postharvest microbiome will enhance the progress being made in the utilization of the microbiome. As we continue to move from an age of chemistry to an age of biology, opportunities are increasing for the development of safe and effective, function-based biocontrol systems that can be used to enhance the shelf life of produce by controlling decay pathogens and perhaps even addressing postharvest physiological disorders. The potential use of microbial consortia in the postharvest environment provides a new perspective and should be explored. While commercial development of microbial-based microbial consortia will be challenging for many reasons, it never-the-less represents a unique aspect in the development of sustainable approaches to feeding a hungry world.

Technical Abstract: Postharvest biological control of postharvest diseases has been suggested as a viable alternative to synthetic chemicals and has been the focus of considerable research worldwide for the last 30 years by many scientists and several commercial companies. Microbiome-based research has opened a whole new frontier that will greatly expand our knowledge of postharvest pathology and biology, and offer new application opportunities for developing novel approaches for biocontrol that are based on a deeper understanding of the complex interactions taking place between the resident microbiota and harvested produce. The postharvest microbiome is only beginning to be explored, and the composition and functional effect of the microbiome on fresh produce after harvest is largely unknown. Determining if different commodities have a core microbiome that determines potential host-microbiome interactions has yet to be determined. Viewing harvested produce as a meta-organism, within the holobiont concept, and its recent iterations may represent a useful model for the postharvest microbiome, considering that harvested commodities represent dynamic systems with complex microbial community-host interactions. Understanding the functional role and impact of the endophytic and epiphytic microbiome of developing and harvested fruit would provide valuable information needed for the development of safe and effective, function-based biocontrol systems that can be used to enhance the shelf life of produce by controlling decay pathogens and perhaps even postharvest physiological disorders.