Quality and storability of cactus pear fruit as improved by supplemental irrigation
Keywords:Opuntia spp.; fruit size; flesh firmness; total soluble solids; fruit mass loss.
This research evaluated some fruit quality attributes at harvest and after two storage conditions [i.e., room temperature and cold storage] of four cactus pear cultivars previously exposed to non-irrigated (NI) treatment as the control, supplemental irrigation (SI) and commercial irrigation (CI). The cultivars responded differently to irrigation treatments and among evaluations. SI and CI plants had the highest fruit and pulp mass at harvest and maintained at both storage conditions, although these results were not always significant. Flesh firmness tended to be the highest in SI and CI fruit at harvest in all cultivars. The latter response was maintained occasionally at both storage conditions in all cultivars. Both dry mass concentration and total soluble solids concentration tended to be the highest in NI fruit of all cultivars. Fruit mass loss was minimized by SI and CI treatments in both storage conditions, and in relation to room temperature storage, cold storage increased the fruit storage life of all cultivars. At the start of the experiment, NI fruit at room temperature storage had the highest decay incidence; after that, this fruit deterioration problem was observed occasionally in both storage conditions. It was concluded that the amount and occurrence of rain was an important factor in the statistical inconsistence of the response variables. However, the SI and CI treatments minimized fruit mass loss in both storage conditions and extended the fruit storage life of all cultivars in cold storage, which is important for transportation, marketing, and consumers. Additionally, SI, on a three-year-average, saved irrigation water by 51% compared to CI, therefore, SI may be recommended to similar agro-ecological regions.