A study conducted by scientists from the University of Malaga (UMA), in partnership with the Institute of Agricultural and Fisheries Research (Ifapa) in Cordoba, the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Physiology in Dresden and the University of Potsdam, has served to identify ten biomarkers in strawberries related to the preservation of the fruit's quality after it is picked. The findings could be helpful in the search for methods to preserve the flavor, color and fragrance of this perishable product for as long as possible after the harvest.
The aim of the researchers is to study the unique traces left by specific cellular processes in the strawberry. "We performed high performance metabolomics analyzes. This technique allows one sample to provide data from more than 500 components at once," said José Vallarino of UMA, co-author of the study 'Metabolic reconfiguration of strawberry physiology in response to postharvest practices', published in the journal Food Chemistry.
Vallarino told Fundación Descubre that five strawberry varieties were analyzed. These were stored in three different ways: in cold storage, in a storage facility with a high CO2 content and in an ozone-rich environment. Data were collected over ten days using bio-informatics models to analyze the changes in the strawberries in detail.
The scientists analyzed the metabolic reconfiguration of the strawberries following the various post-harvest treatments used by the industry to extend the fruit's shelf life. When the fruit ripens on the plant, metabolites such as sugars increase, but so do others that provide an aroma and color that are attractive to the seed dispersers, which are usually animals. "But when the fruit is picked, it can no longer feed, so to keep its cells alive, it starts using some of the previously stored compounds, such as sugars, by breaking them down little by little. Thus, the starting configuration of compounds starts to change,” says Vallarino.
The University of Malaga researcher explains that the results obtained after months of analyzing thousands of metabolomics data still need to be tested in other countries, different seasons and under different conditions.
The ultimate goal is to find a way to influence the spoilage process. "This can be studied at the genetic level, modulating the expression of the controlling genes, or at the metabolite level, by interfering in the accumulation of compounds responsible for the fruit's spoilage, or by facilitating the production of components that protect the fruit," said José Vallarino.