AgroFresh introduced soft scald screening last year for Honeycrisp, and this year has added bitter pit screening.
The tools can be used by growers to predict the risk of soft scald and bitter pit development on Honeycrispss in storage by analyzing unique biomarkers, said Brittany Buchanan, FreshCloud global business lead.
“You can really start to prioritize your best fruit for the right market,” she said.
Understanding bitter pit risk is valuable to Honeycrisp growers, according to AgroFresh, with some growers in the U.S. losing an average of 15–25% of the crop, and more than double that in extreme cases.
“Everything is about data that helps inform key decisions along the supply chain to reduce food waste, and improve fruit or vegetable quality, which can lead to greater revenue and maximize retail sales,” Buchanan said.
By testing about 40 apples in any harvest lot, she said FreshCloud Predictive Screening can measure biomarker responses to environmental factors, including orchard management practices, climate and location.
“How it works is you go into an orchard and you pick 40 representative apples of a block (same rootstock, strain and year planted) that can represent up to 10 acres,” she said. “All you need is a little quarter-size peel off of each apple, and that gets placed into a special solution that helps pull out the right substances,” she said. An AgroFresh lab in Yakima, Wash., analyzes the results, looking at what genes are being expressed in the samples. Initially focused in the Northwest, the service is available to growers in other regions, she said.
The testing can help growers determine if a particular lot of fruit is at high, medium or low risk for soft scald and bitter pit, Buchanan said.
“That can help growers sort like fruit together and try to alleviate any sorts of disorders,” she said.
Treatment of fruit with vulnerability to soft scald can worsen bitter pit problems, she said, and it is valuable to know the risk of each condition.
“If you’re not using predictive screening, you don’t know if you’re likely to (get) soft scald or not, you just go ahead and condition all your fruit,” she said. “The disadvantages is that makes bitter pit worse — so that’s why this data is so valuable.” FreshCloud Predictive Screening has identified biomarkers for shoulder browning in galas, which is in a demonstration phase and will likely be commercially offered next year.
While the screening works on soft scald and bitter pit issues at harvest for Honeycrisp, Buchanan said FreshCloud also offers a service called Storage Insights. For long-term storage of commodities like apples and pears, Storage Insights analyzes air inside storage areas, measuring metabolic volatile organic compounds.
“What we’ve learned in the last 10 years is that for a living breathing thing, like you or I, or apples in the storage room, what we breathe in and out can be indicative of our health,” she said.
The service takes an air samples from regular controlled-atmosphere storage areas every three weeks and tests for changes in fruit condition over time. Issues like decay can be identified early with the tool, she said.
“By looking at these multiple volatile organic compounds with our lab equipment, and the science that we’ve developed through 10 years of research, we give (the storage rooms) condition ratings,” she said.