Chile is a recognized supplier of this fruit throughout the world, but there are diseases that can affect its quality during transport to distant markets. For this reason, researchers at INIA La Platina are creating a device that is friendly to the environment to avoid this problem and respond to demanding consumers.

Santiago, November 2020.- The need to have safe and highly effective tools to control the rot of blueberries during their transport led the team of the Postharvest Unit of INIA La Platina to generate a safe and highly effective method that allows promoting, even more, the sale of this quoted fruit to distant markets and even as demanding as organic.

The initiative consists of developing a device with antifungal activity that acts in a complementary way to postharvest technologies currently in use. "This tool that contains encapsulated microorganisms releasing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), with antifungal activity at low temperatures, allowing safely to increase the shelf life of blueberries without modifying their quality characteristics and organoleptic properties", explained specialist in packaging of INIA La Platina, Pablo Ulloa.

The IDEA ID20I10197 project entitled "Device for generating volatile compounds of bacterial origin to reduce losses caused by Botrytis in blueberries: A sustainable alternative to reach distant markets" was born based on previous studies carried out by INIA researchers, who evaluated the fungistatic effect of VOCs generated from an Antarctic microorganism. The results obtained, both in-vitro with isolated of Botrytis sp., as in-vivo with blueberries in postharvest, allowed to establish a level of control or inhibition, both at room temperature (20-22 ° C), and after a period of 45 days of storage at 0 ° C, explained the project director and manager of the INIA La Platina Postharvest Unit, Bruno Defilippi.

"The proposed solution is novel, with minimal environmental impact (green technology) and very differentiating from existing technological solutions for the control of Botrytis cinerea in this fruit ”, highlighted the postharvest specialist. In addition, he added that the researchers working on this initiative have different types of academic training, so the approach to solving this problem is in a multidisciplinary way, which is a great advantage.

Chilean blueberries for export 

North America, Europe and Asia are the main markets, which are served by Chilean blueberries recognized for their unmatched quality. However, the distance is one of the main factors of deterioration of the fruit, due to rotting caused by Botrytis cinerea, which generates not only loss of product, but also a decrease in its value due to poor quality, explained Bruno Defilippi. 

To face this problem, the blueberry industry has limited tools to control Botrytis in postharvest, which are based on handling during preharvest, mainly with the application of fungicides and complemented, in some cases, with gasification with sulfur dioxide (SO2) and the use of generators during packaging. However, these technologies, in addition to not being 100% efficient, present limitations regarding access to markets, such as the United States, and the generation of organoleptic deterioration of the fruit under certain conditions.

“Therefore, in this scenario, there is a clear need and an opportunity to have safe and highly effective tools or methods to control the rot caused by Botrytis and the team of the INIA La Platina Postharvest Unit works to respond to this requirement of the industry ”, explained Pablo Ulloa.

About INIA

The Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecuarias (INIA) is the main institution for agri-food research, development and innovation in Chile. Linked to the Ministry of Agriculture, it has a national presence and a work team of more than 1,000 highly qualified people. It executes an average of 400 projects per year around 5 strategic areas: Climate Change, Sustainability, Food of the Future, Emerging Technologies, and Extension and Training of Capacities. These initiatives contribute to the sustainable agri-food development of the country, creating value and proposing innovative solutions to farmers, strategic partners and society, generating a social profitability that varies between 15% and 25%, for each peso invested in each of their projects.

INIA, more than 55 years leading the sustainable agri-food development of Chile.

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Press contact: Communications Manager at INIA La Platina, María Jesús Espinoza mariajesus.espinoza@www.inia.cl