Non-invasive detection of fruit with latent fungal infection
From every harvest, a portion of spoiled fruit is discarded as unsuitable to market, resulting in loss to fruit producer, lower crop yields and increased reliance on imported goods to meet market demand. Some of the main reasons for fruit spoilage are fungal infections and internal rot disorders that cannot currently be diagnosed early enough to enable suitable preventative action to be taken.
The main impact of fungal and internal rot disorders can be summarised as follows:
- As many disorders are latent, they do not manifest themselves until during or after storage, making it difficult to separate out low quality fruit through, for example, visual inspection immediately post-harvest
- During storage, the presence of infected fruits that have not been isolated and removed causes spread of the contamination to other fruits, which in extreme cases, resulting in whole stores being lost
- The inability to detect infection at its early stage in fruits results in a missed opportunity to market fruits early
- On average, latent fungal infections in apples, cherries and plums result in a 5 – 10 % loss, representing £5-7 M wastage costs to this part of the fruit industry. Latent fruit rot in these fruit groups can be as high as 50 %
- More severe implications include the entrance of mycotoxins into the food chain from core rot
In collaborating with several academic and industrial partners, we developing a photonics-based approach for detection of volatile biomarkers for fruit quality monitoring, enabling appropriate action to be taken by producers to minimise losses.