Postharvest Diseases of Pomegranate: Alternative Control Means and a Spiderweb Effect
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Cita bibliográficaMincuzzi, A., Picciotti, U., Sanzani, S. M., Garganese, F., Palou, L., Addante, R. et al. (2023). Postharvest Diseases of Pomegranate: Alternative Control Means and a Spiderweb Effect. Journal of Fungi, 9(8), 808.
The pomegranate is a fruit known since ancient times for its beneficial properties. It has recently aroused great interest in the industry and among consumers, leading to a significant increase in demand. Consequently, its cultivation has been boosted all over the world. The pomegranate crop suffers considerable yield losses, especially at the postharvest stage, because it is a “minor crop” with few permitted control means. To control latent (Alternaria spp., Botrytis spp., Coniella spp., Colletotrichum spp., and Cytospora spp.) and wound (Aspergillus spp., Penicillium spp., and Talaromyces spp.) fungal pathogens, different alternative compounds, previously evaluated in vitro, were tested in the field on pomegranate cv. Wonderful. A chitosan solution, a plant protein hydrolysate, and a red seaweed extract were compared with a chemical control treatment, all as preharvest (field application) and postharvest treatments and their combinations. At the end of the storage period, the incidence of stamen infections and external and internal rots, and the severity of internal decay were evaluated. Obtained data revealed that pre- and postharvest application of all substances reduced the epiphytic population on stamens. Preharvest applications of seaweed extract and plant hydrolysate were the most effective treatments to reduce the severity of internal pomegranate decays. Furthermore, the influence of spider (Cheiracanthium mildei) cocoons on the fruit calyx as a possible barrier against postharvest fungal pathogens was assessed in a ‘Mollar de Elche’ pomegranate organic orchard. Compared to no-cocoon fruit (control), the incidence of infected stamens and internal molds in those with spiderwebs was reduced by about 30%, and the mean severity of internal rots was halved. Spiderwebs analyzed via Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) disclosed a layered, unordered structure that did not allow for the passage of fungal spores due to its mean mesh size (1 to 20 µm ca). The aims of this research were (I) to evaluate alternative compounds useful to control postharvest pomegranate decays and (II) to evaluate the effectiveness of spiders in reducing postharvest fungal infections by analyzing related mechanisms of action. Alternative control means proposed in the present work and calyx spider colonization may be helpful to reduce postharvest pomegranate diseases, yield losses, and waste production in an integrated control strategy, satisfying organic agriculture and the planned goals of Zero Hunger Challenge launched by the United Nations.