Chilean scientist aims to defrost chilling injury for pomegranates

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Chilean scientist aims to defrost chilling injury for pomegranates

With a better understanding of the effects of cold temperatures on pomegranates, a Chilean scientist hopes to find ways to reduce, delay or potentially avoid damages to the fruit during transit. At, we spoke with Regional Center for Food and Health Studies (CREAS) researcher Mónika Valdenegro, who said while the crop had experienced growth in plantings and exports in recent years, its sensitivity to chilling was an important issue that could affect quality.

While a vast array of studies have been done into chilling effects on climacteric fruits like bananas and cherries, Valdenegro highlights their non-climacteric counterparts like pomegranates have not received the same level of attention.

CREAS scientist Mónika Valdenegro.

CREAS scientist Mónika Valdenegro.

That is about to change for the Chilean industry, after the scientists received financial support from government fund Fondecyt (National Scientific and Technological Development Fund).

Using the most common Wonderful variety, the project "Study of Physiological, Biochemical And Molecular Responses Associated To Chilling Injury In Pomegranate Fruit (Punica  granatum)", will look at the physiological, biochemical and molecular response of the fruit to the cold.

Valdenegro said this involved studying physiological disorders that results from chilling, and how they relates to biosynthetic pathways for ethylene, which is responsible for changes during ripening.

"This project has funds from Fondecyt with a duration of three years (2014-16) and looks to understand the causes of the chilling injury phenomenon, and its consequences for this type of fruit," she told

"We will submit it to cold conditions - conservation temperatures below 5°C (41°F) - so that effects of damage appear, and from that moment we'll study what occurs with the tissues at a physiological, cellular level, and we'll start to work with all the oxidative enzymes and components that increase when a particular tissue is under a situation of stress."

After this process is complete, the relationship between different hormones will be analyzed, before the final stage of evaluating different treatments and alternative technologies to counteract the effect.

"What we are looking for is to deliver a little bit more information with respect to the behavior of this fruit in the cold, and in turn, knowing the phenomenon, the parameters and the products of these enzymes, we want to find an alternative to avoid, control and delay the appearance of this phenomenon."

When asked about the possibility of replicating this methodology with other fruits, Valdenegro said it could be applied to other non-climateric crops like strawberries or grapes.

"In non-climateric fruits, once they are collected, they don't continue the ripening process but more advance in the process of deterioration."

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