Characterization of postharvest physiology attributes of six commercially grown tomato varieties in Kenya
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Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill) is the leading vegetable in terms of production in Kenya. The Kenyan local market has a wide variety of tomato cultivars with a wide range of morphological and sensorial characteristics. However, information on the nutritional and postharvest quality of these varieties is lacking. The aim of this research was to investigate and identify tomato varieties of superior postharvest quality and recommend them to small and medium scale farmers. In this study, six tomato varieties were grown in a greenhouse and analyzed at three maturity stages (mature green, turning and red ripe). The tomatoes were analyzed at specific days after harvest and storage at room temperature (25o C). Percentage weight loss, color, respiration and ethylene production rates were analyzed to assess the postharvest quality of the tomatoes. The color was measured using a Minolta Chromameter while the respiration rate and ethylene production rates were determined using the static system approach. Color, weight loss, respiration and ethylene production rates were positively affected by storage time when harvested at the three maturity stages. The percentage weight loss of the tomato fruits was higher in the determinate varieties, and at the turning stage of maturity (3.8 %). Minor color changes were observed after storage of the tomatoes harvested at red stage for six days. Both rates of respiration and ethylene production were low, with the respiration rate ranging between 56-10 ml CO2 Kg-1h-1. The Chonto F1 variety had the highest rate of ethylene production (5.4 μL C2H4 Kg-1h-1) on the 4th day of storage after harvest at the red ripe stage. Overall, the indeterminate tomato varieties displayed better postharvest quality that can prolong the fruits shelf life for marketing. In turn, the turning stage of maturity proved to be a better stage to harvest tomatoes as the color development was more uniform.
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