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Article     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 46(12)

Postharvest characteristics and handling of litchi fruit — an overview

Y. M. Jiang A B G, Y. Wang A, L. Song A, H. Liu A, A. Lichter C, O. Kerdchoechuen D, D. C. Joyce E, J. Shi F

A South China Botanical Garden, The Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou ReYiJu 510650, The People’s Republic of China.
B College of Food Science, Biotechnology and Environmental Engineering, Zhejiang Gongshang University, Hangzhou 310035, The People’s Republic of China.
C Department of Postharvest Science of Fresh Produce, Agricultural Research Organization, The Volcani Center, PO Box 6, Bet Dagan 50250, Israel.
D School of Bioresources and Technology, King Mongkut’s University of Technology at Thonburi, 83 Mu 8 Bangkhuntein Road, Thakam, Bangkhuntein, Bangkok 10150, Thailand.
E Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, The University of Queensland, Gatton, Qld 4343, Australia.
F Food Research Center, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Guelph, ON N1G 5C9, Canada.
G Corresponding author. Email: ymjiang@scib.ac.cn
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Litchi (Litchi chinensis Sonn.) is a tropical to subtropical crop that originated in South-East Asia. Litchi fruit are prized on the world market for their flavour, semi-translucent white aril and attractive red skin. Litchi is now grown commercially in many countries and production in Australia, China, Israel, South Africa and Thailand has expanded markedly in recent years. Increased production has made significant contributions to economic development in these countries, especially those in South-East Asia. Non-climacteric litchi fruit are harvested at their visual and organoleptic optimum. They are highly perishable and, consequently, have a short life that limits marketability and potential expansion of demand. Pericarp browning and pathological decay are common and important defects of harvested litchi fruit. Postharvest technologies have been developed to reduce these defects. These technologies involve cooling and heating the fruit, use of various packages and packaging materials and the application of fungicides and other chemicals. Through the use of fungicides and refrigeration, litchi fruit have a storage life of about 30 days. However, when they are removed from storage, their shelf life at ambient temperature is very short due to pericarp browning and fruit rotting. Low temperature acclimation or use of chitsoan as a coating can extend the shelf life. Sulfur dioxide fumigation effectively reduces pericarp browning, but approval from Europe, Australia and Japan for this chemical is likely to be withdrawn due to concerns over sulfur residues in fumigated fruit. Thus, sulfur-free postharvest treatments that maintain fruit skin colour are increasingly important. Alternatives to SO2 fumigation for control of pericarp browning and fruit rotting are pre-storage pathogen management, anoxia treatment, and dipping in 2% hydrogen chloride solution for 6-8 min following storage at 0°C. Insect disinfestation has become increasingly important for the expansion of export markets because of quarantine issues associated with some fruit fly species. Thus, effective disinfestation protocols need to be developed. Heat treatment has shown promise as a quarantine technology, but it injures pericarp tissue and results in skin browning. However, heat treatment can be combined with an acid dip treatment that inhibits browning. Therefore, the primary aim of postharvest litchi research remains the achievement of highly coloured fruit which is free of pests and disease. Future research should focus on disease control before harvest, combined acid and heat treatments after harvest and careful temperature management during storage and transport.

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