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Submitted to Dr. Jayanthi Tokkas, Department of Biochemistry

Submitted by
Naresh Kumar, 2013BS07D
M.Raghavendra, 2013BS09D

Biochemistry of post harvest storage

The factors affecting storage life
Water loss
Mechanical damage
Decay of storage
Post harvest factors influencing quality

Supplemental treatments applied to the commodity

Supplemental treatments involved in manipulation of environment

Composition and compositional changes
Effect of ascorbic acid on post harvest storage
Organic acid
Phenolic compounds
Biological factors involved in post harvest deterioration of fruits
Ethylene production
Transpiration/ water loss

Biochemistry of post harvest storage
Fresh fruits and vegetables play a very essential role in human nutrition and
health, especially as sources of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibre. Nutritional value
varies greatly among commodities and cultivars of each commodity. Using plant
breeding and biotechnology approaches it is possible to develop genotypes that have
enhanced nutritional quality and improved flavour quality to encourage consumers to
eat more fruits and vegetables. Climatic conditions especially temperature and light
intensity, have a strong effect on the nutritional quality of fruits and vegetables.
Maturity at harvest and harvesting method influences the commodities quality and
extent of physical injuries. Delay between harvest and consumption or processing can
result in losses of flavour and nutritional quality. The magnitude of these losses
increases with exposure to temperatures, relative humidity and concentrations of
oxygen, carbondioxide and ethylene outside the ranges that are optimum for each
commodity during the entire post harvest handling system. Furthermore, processing
and cooking methods can greatly affect the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables.
Maturity at harvest is the most important factor that determines storage life and
final fruit quality. Immature fruits are more subject to shrivelling and mechanical
damage and are of inferior quality when ripened. Over ripe fruits are likely to become
soft and mealy with insipid flavour soon after harvest. In general, fruits become
sweeter, more colourful, and softer as they mature.
The factors affecting storage life
The natural limits to the post-harvest life of all types of fresh produce are
severely affected by other biological and environmental conditions:
Temperature. An increase in temperature causes an increase in the rate of natural
breakdown of all produce as food reserves and water content become depleted. The
cooling of produce will extend its life by slowing the rate of breakdown.
Water loss. High temperature and injuries to produce can greatly increase the loss of
water from stored produce beyond that unavoidably lost from natural causes. Maximum
storage life can be achieved by storing only undamaged produce at the lowest
temperature tolerable by the crop.
Mechanical damage. Damage caused during harvesting and subsequent handling
increases the rate of deterioration of produce and renders it liable to attacks by decay
organisms. Mechanical damage to root crops will cause heavy losses owing to bacterial
decay and must be remedied by curing the roots or tubers before storage.
Decay in storage. Decay of fresh produce during storage is mostly caused by the
infection of mechanical injuries. Furthermore, many fruits and vegetables are attacked
by decay organisms which penetrate through natural openings or even through the
intact skin. These infections may be established during the growth of the plant in the
field but lie dormant until after harvest, often becoming visible only during storage or
Post harvest opportunities for enhancing the quality and quantity of essential
nutrients present in fruits and vegetables include:
1. Increasing overall consumption of fruits and vegetables.
2. Improving bioavailability of nutrients.
3. Increasing levels of essential nutrients through fortification methods and
4. Reducing nutrient losses.
Postharvest factors influencing quality
The brief overview of how post harvest factors influence produce quality and its
Temperature and relative humidity: keeping the fruits and vegetables within their
optimum ranges of tempartures and relative humidity is the most important factor in
maintaining their quality and minimizing postharvest losses.
1. Above freezing point, (for non-chilling sensitive commodities) and minimum safe
temperature (for chilling sensitive commodities) every 10
C increase in
temperature accelerates deterioration and the rate of loss in nutritional quality
by 2-3 fold.
2. Delays between harvesting and cooling or processing can result in direct losses
(due to water loss and decay) and indirect losses (losses in flavour and
nutritional quality).
3. Distribution chain: the weakest link in the postharvest handling chain of fresh
fruits and vegetables is the home handling system; greatest potential for
improvement includes development of more sophisticated home-handling
equipment and transfer of handling knowledge to the consumer.

Classification of fruits according to their optimum storage temperatures and
potential storage life

Supplemental treatments applied to the commodity
1. Curing of root vegetables, cleaning, sorting to eliminate defects, sorting by
maturity/ripeness stage, sizing, waxing, treatment with fungicides for decay
control, heat treatments for decay and/or insect control, fumigation for insect
control, irradiation for preventing sprouting or insect disinfection, and exposure
of fruits to ethylene for faster and more uniform ripening.
2. In most cases, these treatments are useful in maintaining quality and extending
postharvest-life of the produce.
3. Irradiation at doses below 1 kilogray has no significant effects on nutritional
quality of fruits and vegetables.
4. Ethylene treatment shortens the time between harvest and consumption which
can result in maintaining a higher concentration of ascorbic acid in tomatoes.
Supplemental treatments involving manipulation of the environment:
1. Responses to atmospheric modification vary greatly among plant species, organ
type and developmental stage, and duration and temperature of exposure.
2. Maintaining the optimum ranges of oxygen, carbondioxide and ethylene
concentrations around the commodity extends its postharvest life by about 50-
100% relative to air control.
3. In general, low O2 atmospheres reduce losses of ascorbic acid in fresh produce.
Elevated CO2 atmospheres upto 10% also reduce ascorbic acid losses, but higher
CO2 concentrations can accelerate these losses.
4. Exposure to ethylene can be detrimental to the quality of most vegetables.
Composition and compositional changes
The flesh of young developing fruits contain very little sugar and large amounts of
starch, acid and phenolics present make them inedible as the fruits approach maturity,
flesh celss enlarge considerably and sugar content increases while starch, acid and
phenolic contents decrease. In addition, certain volatile compounds develop, giving the
fruit its characteristic aroma. Chlorophyll degradation (loss of green color) and
synthesis of carotenoids (yellow to orange colors) and anthocyanins (red and blue
colors) take place both in the skin and the flesh with fruit ripening. All fruits soften as
they ripen due to changes in cell wall composition and structure.
Metabolic changes in post harvest fruits and vegetables
Destruction of chloroplast Synthesis of carotenoids and anthocyanins
Breakdown of chlorophyll Synthesis of flavour volatiles
Starch hydrolysis Synthesis of starch
Organic acid catabolism Synthesis of lignin
Oxidation of substrate Preservation of selective membranes
Inactivation of phenolic compounds Interconversion of sugars
Hydrolysis of pectin Protein synthesis
Breakdown of biological membranes Gene transcription
Cell wall softening Formation of ethylene biosynthesis
Effect of Ascorbic acid on post harvest storage: Many harvesting and postharvest
handling procedures influence the nutritional quality of fruits and vegetables. Much of
the available information is about AA, which appears to be the most sensitive to
postharvest losses. Oxidation can occur in the presence of catalysts, oxidase enzymes, or
as a result of heat during processing. Therefore, vitamin C losses continue through
postharvest handling, processing, cooking, and storage of fruits and vegetables.
Additional research is needed to investigate the effects of postharvest handling
procedures on nutrients in fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, the possible effects on
nutritional quality of those procedures that have not been evaluated need to be
elucidated. Any new harvesting or postharvest handling method should be evaluated as
to its potential impact on nutritional quality before being recommended for use.
Carbohydrates: they are the most abundant and widely distributed food component
derived from plants. Fresh fruits vary greatly in their carbohydrate content, with a
general range being between 10% and 25%. The structural framework, texture, taste
and food value of a fresh fruit is related to its carbohydrate content. Sucrose, glucose
and fructose are the primary sugars found in fruits. Sucrose content ranges from a trace
in cherries, grapes and pomegranates to more than 8% in ripe banana and pineapples.
Such variation influences tastes. Apart from other polysaccharides present in fruits
include cellulose, hemicelluloses, pectin and lignin which are formed mainly in cell walls
and vary greatly among commodities. The transformation of insoluble pectins into
soluble pectins is controlled, for the most part by the enzymes pectinesterase and
polygalacturonase. Reduced activities of these two enzymes have been associated with
reduced juiciness and poor texture in peaches that were ripened after storage at 1oC for
more than three weeks.
Proteins: fruits contain less than 1% protein (9-20% in nuts eg., walnut). Changes in
the level and activity of proteins resulting from permeability changes in cell membranes
may be involved in chilling injury. Enzymes which catalyse metabolic processes in
fruits, are proteins that are important in the reactions involved in fruit ripening and
senescence. Some of the enzymes important in fruit quality include

Lipids: lipids constitutes only 0.1-0.2% of most fresh fruits, except for avocados, olive
and nuts; however lipids are very important because they make up the surface wax,
which contribute to fruit appearance, and cuticle, which protects the fruit again water
loss and pathogens. The degree of fatty acids saturation establishes membrane
flexibility , with greater saturation resulting in less flexibility. Denaturation of fatty aicds
can occur upon chilling in chilling sensitive fruits, in which case membrane undergo a
phase change ( Liquid crystalline to solid gel ) at chilling temperatures, resulting in
disruption of normal metabolism.
Organic Acids: they are important intermediate of metabolism which provides energy
for maintenance of cell integrity. Most fresh fruits are acidic such as lemon s and limes
constitute 2 to 3 percent of fresh weight of acids. Acid content usually decreases during
ripening due to utilization of organic acids during respiration or their conversion to
sugars. Malic acid and citric aicds are the most abundant in fruits except grapes in which
tartaric acid are important in most cultivars and kiwi fruits which has abundant quinc

Pigments: these are chemicals responsible for skin and flesh colors which undergo
changes during storage these include
1. Loss of chlorophyll which is influenced by pH changes , oxidative changes and
chlorophyllase action.
2. Synthesis or revelation of carotinoids ( Yellow and Orange Color)
3. Development of anthocynin which are fruit specific for example apple has
Cyanidin 3-arabinoside, grape has Malvidin 3-glucoside etc.
Beta carotene which is nutritionally important or are very stable and remain intact in
fruit tissue even when extensive senescence occurred. Wheras anthocynin occur as
glycosides are unstable and hydrolyzed by phenol oxidaze which gives brown oxidation
Phenolic Compound: Total phenolic content is high in immature fruit then mature
fruits. It includes chlorogenic acids , catechin, epicatechin, leucoanthocyanidins,
flavanols and phenols. Chlorogenic acid (ester of caffeic acid) occurs widely in fruits and
is the main substrate unvolved in enzymatic browning of cut, or otherwise damaged,
fruit tissues when exposed to air. Normally phenolic compounds are separate from the
PPO (Polyphenoloxidase). Enzyme in the intact cells of plant tissue. Once the tissue is
damaged, PPO and the phenolic compounds that it acts on are decompartmentalized
and the above reactions occur, leading to tissue browning. Astringency is directly
related to phenolic content, and it usually decreases with fruit ripening because of
conversion of astringent phenolic compounds from the soluble to the insoluble,
nonastringent form. Loss of astringency occurs via 1. Binding or polymerization of
phenolics 2. Change in molecular size of phenolics 3. Change in hydroxylation pattern of
phenolic compounds.
Volatiles: they are responsible for the characteristic aroma of fruits. They are present
in extremely small quantities. The total amount of carbon involved in the synthesis of
volatiles is <1% of that expelled as CO2. The major volatile formed in climacteric fruits is
ethylene. Ethylene does not have a strong aroma and does not contribute to typical fruit
aromas. Volatile compounds are largely esters, alcohols, aids, aldehydes and ketones
(low molecular weight compounds). Very large numbers of volatile compounds have
been identified in fruits, and more are identified as advances in separation and
detection techniques and gas chromatographic methods are made; however only a few
key volatiles are important for the particular aroma of a given fruit.
Vitamins: the water soluble vitamins include vitamin C, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin,
vitamin B6, folacin, vitamin B12, Biotin, and pantothenic acid. Fat soluble vitamins
include vitamins A,D,E,K, fat soluble vitamins are less susceptible to postharvest losses.
Minerals: Important fruit minerals include base-forming elements (Ca, Mg, Na, K) and
acid forming elements (P,Cl,S). Minerals present in microquantities include Fe, Cu, Co,
Mn, Zn,I and Mo.High nitrogen content is often associated with reduced soluble solids
content, lower acidity and increased susceptibility to physiological disorders in fruits.
High potassium content is often associated with increased acidity and improved color of
fruits. High calcium contents reduce CO2 and C2H2 production rates, delay ripening,
reduce the incidence of physiological disorders, and extend the storage life of apples
and other fruits. High phosphorous content may result in decreased acidity in some

Biological factors involved in post harvest deterioration of fruit
Respiration: it is the process by which stored organic material are broken down into
simple end products with a release of energy. Oxygen is used in this process and
carbondioxide is produced. Food value (energy value) for the consumer is lost; it has
reduced flavour quality, with sweetness especially being lost; and salable dry weight is
lost (especially important for commodities destined for dehydration). The energy
released as heat, which is known as vital heat, affects postharvest technology
considerations such as estimations of refrigeration and ventilation requirements. The
rate of deterioration (degree of perishability) of fruits is generally proportional to their
respiration rate.

Ethylene production: ethylene the simplest of the organic compounds affecting the
physiological processes of plants is a natural product of plant metabolism and is
produced by all tissues of higher plants and by some microorganisms. A a plant
hormone,ethylene regulates man aspects od growth development, and senescence and
is physiologically active in trace amounts (less than 0.1 ppm). Ethylene synthesis starts
with the aminoacid methionine, which is energized by ATP to produce S-adenosyl
methionine (SAM). The key enzyme in the pathway, ACC synthase, converts SAM to 1-
aminocyclopropane-1carboxylic acid (ACC), which is converted to ethylene by the
action of ACC oxidase.

Classification of fruits according to the ethylene production

Transpiration or water loss: water loss is the main cause of deterioration because it
results not only in direct quantitative losses (loss of salable weight), but also in losses in
appearance (wilting and shrivelling), textural quality (softening, flaccidity, limpness,
loss of crispness and juiciness) and nutritional quality. The dermal system i.e., cuticle,
epidermal cells, stomata, lenticels and trichomes govern the regulation of water loss in
the commodity.
Transpiration rate is influenced by internal or commodity factors (morphological
and anatomical characteristics, surface to volume ratio, surface injuries and maturity
stage) and external or environmental factors (temparature, relative humidity, air
movement and atmospheric pressure). Transpiration (evaporation of water from the
plant tissues)is a physical process that can be controlled by applying treatments to the
commodity (e.g., waxes and other surface coating or wrapping with plastic films) or by
manipulation of the environmental (eg., maintenance of high relative humidity and
control of air circulation).