In a bid to control the decay of fruits and vegetables after harvest researchers in the US have come up with a new, biofungicide coat.
Scientists at the US Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have been working to improve earlier biofungicides aimed at controlling fungal decay that can destroy more than 25 per cent of the world's harvested fruit.
Biological products, such as friendly yeasts, are used for environmentally safe pest control and to reduce dependence on synthetic chemicals. They work by consuming nutrients on fruit and vegetable skins that otherwise would allow rot-causing fungi to grow.
Charles L. Wilson, a plant pathologist with the ARS Appalachian Fruit Research Station, Kearneysville, West Vermont and Ahmed El Ghaouth, a postharvest plant pathologist conducted research that has led to two patents issued this year.
One of the two new patents discloses how chitosan, a natural fungicide, can be compatibly combined with an antagonistic yeast named Candida saitoana by adding a softener. Antagonistic yeast organisms are normally found on fruit and vegetable skins, but are benign to people. The other patent approved this year discloses a mixture of C. saitoana with lysozyme, an anti-fungal enzyme.
Development of post-harvest biological products based on technology described in the patents is being furthered by Micro Flo, a subsidiary of the international chemical company BASF, through a cooperative research and development agreement. Micro Flo is pursuing the lysozyme and C. saitoana mixture to create a product named Biocure.
The annual worldwide market for post-harvest treatments is currently more than $18 million (€18.8m) for citrus and more than $8 million for apples, according to El Ghaouth.