Effect of Washing, Waxing and Low-Temperature Storage on the Postharvest Microbiome of Apple
Whitehead, Susan R.
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There is growing recognition of the role that the microbiome plays in the health and physiology of many plant species. However, considerably less research has been conducted on the postharvest microbiome of produce and the impact that postharvest processing may have on its composition. Here, amplicon sequencing was used to study the effect of washing, waxing, and low-temperature storage at 2 °C for six months on the bacterial and fungal communities of apple calyx-end, stem-end, and peel tissues. The results of the present work reveal that tissue-type is the main factor defining fungal and bacterial diversity and community composition on apple fruit. Both postharvest treatments and low temperature storage had a strong impact on the fungal and bacterial diversity and community composition of these tissue types. Distinct spatial and temporal changes in the composition and diversity of the microbiota were observed in response to various postharvest management practices. The greatest impact was attributed to sanitation practices with major differences among unwashed, washed and washed-waxed apples. The magnitude of the differences, however, was tissue-specific, with the greatest impact occurring on peel tissues. Temporally, the largest shift occurred during the first two months of low-temperature storage, although fungi were more affected by storage time than bacteria. In general, fungi and bacteria were impacted equally by sanitation practices, especially the epiphytic microflora of peel tissues. This research provides a foundation for understanding the impact of postharvest management practices on the microbiome of apple and its potential subsequent effects on postharvest disease management and food safety.