Slightly stress the pomegranate tree in an ecological way to produce a fruit with a higher content of antioxidant compounds, healthier for the body and with a longer commercial life because optimal consumption conditions are extended by about 15 days.
This has been the achievement of the Post-harvest Fruit and Vegetable Research Group of the Center for Agrifood and Agro-environmental Research and Innovation of the Miguel Hernández University of Elche (Ciagro-UMH), on the Orihuela-Desamparados campus.
Funded with a national public R & D & i project and led by researchers Daniel Valero and María Serrano, the technique of inducing a defense response of plants has been optimized by applying natural substances to pomegranates, that is, , to cause a situation of slight stress to generate a better fruit due to the greater presence of antioxidants.
Researcher Juan Miguel Valverde explains that this stress situation is similar to that generated by trees in a natural way as a defensive response to pest attack, achieving, for example, wound healing more quickly and avoiding the development of rottenness.
Simulating this mode of action, the Ciagro-UMH researchers have sprayed these natural substances onto the pomegranates in precise combinations and at specific fruit development times.
The tree’s response to these applications is a slight stress that produces a greater accumulation of antioxidants in the pomegranates, which makes them healthier for the consumer and more resistant to quality loss during storage, distribution and sale.
Another aspect studied in the pomegranate is the optimization of its refrigeration conservation after harvest since these fruits must be stored at a temperature around 10 degrees Celsius and it is not possible unless it would develop some physiological imbalances called “cold damage” .
The mollar pomegranate from Elche, the most consumed and appreciated in Spain for its excellent quality, can be kept in relative good condition for consumption between 45 and 60 days, and with the techniques developed by this research group of the Cciagro-UMH it can be increase another 21 or 30 additional days.
«The advantage of increasing the shelf life is that this fruit can be available for sale for a longer time, achieving a competitive advantage for the distributor, as well as greater conservation for the consumer, which means healthy fruit for longer and less food waste ”, according to Valverde.
In the facilities of the research group of the Elche University there is a germplasm bank of pomegranates and experimental plots for the development of the studies.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.