EFFECT OF PREHARVEST AGRO-ECOLOGICAL CONDITIONS ON THE POSTHARVEST QUALITY AND SHELF LIFE OF MANGO FRUITS, Mangifera Indica L CULTIVAR TOMMY ATKINS
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Abstract

Preharvest production factors including agro-ecological conditions and cultural practices have been reported to affect the fruit quality potential at harvest and postharvest characteristics. This study was conducted to compare the quality and postharvest shelf life of mango fruits produced under two contrasting agro-ecological conditions (high potential versus low potential) found in two districts (Embu and Yatta respectively) of Eastern Province of Kenya. The two locations differ in rainfall amounts and distribution, temperature and soil conditions. Fruits produced in the two locations were harvested at three stages of maturity; stage 1 (150days after bloom), stage 2 (165 days after bloom) and tree ripe stage (180 days after bloom). Fruits harvested at stage 1 and 2 were stored at ambient room conditions and three fruits sampled every two days for evaluation of physiological and physicochemical parameters associated with ripening and fruit quality. The parameters evaluated include ethylene evolution, respiration, changes in peel/flesh firmness and color, cumulative weight loss, changes in 0brix, soluble sugars, ascorbic acid, ß – carotene and mineral nutrients. A hedonic scale was used to evaluate the sensory properties of the tree ripened fruits from the two locations by an untrained taste panelists Significant (P<0.05) treatment effects were observed between fruits harvested from the two agro-ecological zones. Fruits from the lower potential (drier) Yatta district had higher flesh firmness, levels of 0brix, soluble sugars, ß – carotene and ascorbic acid levels compared to fruits from the higher potential district (Embu). The Yatta fruits also had better sensory properties as evinced by higher scores on hedonic scale. Fruits from Embu deteriorated faster during storage as evidenced by an earlier respiratory climacteric and higher respiration rates and cumulative weight loss and lower flesh firmness throughout storage. These results confirm that preharvest production conditions significantly affect fruit quality and the postharvest behavior and should be considered in processing and postharvest handling of fruits.