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UF/IFAS-tested treatment retains avocado taste, smell while keeping it fresh

“Developing the technology to prolong the harvest life and quality of Florida avocados provides producers and packinghouses more flexibility and opportunity to sell fruit of a particular variety.”

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new liquid treatment may keep a Florida avocado hybrid fresh longer, a finding that could expand the avocado’s marketability, a University of Florida study shows.

Former UF doctoral student Marcio Eduardo Canto Pereira used ethylene as well as liquid and gaseous forms of 1-methylcycloprene on Booth 7 avocados, a combination of West Indian and Guatemalan varieties. Ethylene is a natural plant hormone produced by fruits and can be applied to speed the ripening process ─ as is done commonly with bananas and tomatoes ─ while 1-methylcycloprene slows the process.

In this study, ethylene did not speed the ripening of the avocados, but the gaseous 1-methylcycloprene, also known as the SmartFreshTM Quality System, kept the fruit fresh.

Pereira also wanted to know if the plant-growth regulator would affect consumers’ taste and smell perceptions. Taste-testers at the UF campus in Gainesville reported no significant loss in appearance, smell and taste of the fruit, even after the delayed-ripening treatment, the study showed.

“Developing the technology to prolong the harvest life and quality of Florida avocados provides producers and packinghouses more flexibility and opportunity to sell fruit of a particular variety,” said Steve Sargent, postharvest technology professor at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and Pereira’s adviser.

For the study, avocados were grown at the Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead. The fruit was treated at the UF campus in Gainesville in two seasons, 2008 and 2009. There, 75 people tested the treated avocados for texture, taste, smell and other sensory perceptions.

Those perceptions are critical because consumers are increasingly interested in avocados. They are rich in monounsaturated lipids and antioxidants. In addition to health benefits, consumers like avocados because of their pulp texture and flavor, the study said.

Booth 7 avocados are grown in South Florida. While the industry doesn’t yet use the treatment for harvested avocados, if and when it does, that crop could be shipped around the country and maintain its freshness longer, researchers said.

Florida’s avocado, grown from late May to January, is important to the agricultural economy of Florida, with a crop production value in 2013 of $23.5 million, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. About 85 percent of the crop is sold outside the state. Florida’s avocado industry consists of about 7,400 acres, representing about 60 percent of the total tropical-fruit crop land, according to FDACS.

UF’s latest avocado study is published in this month’s issue of the journal Postharvest Biology and Technology.

In addition to Pereira and Sargent, other co-authors on the paper were Charles Sims, professor of fruit and vegetable processing; Donald Huber, professor of fruit biology; Jonathan Crane, professor and associate director of the Tropical REC and Jeffrey Brecht, professor of postharvest physiology, all at UF/IFAS.

UF/IFAS Avocado

A new liquid treatment may help a Florida avocado hybrid stay fresh longer, according to a new study by UF/IFAS scientists.