BACKGROUND: Little information is available about the impact of nutrient solution ion concentration on quality characteristics and shelf life of fresh-cut lettuce grown in soilless systems in open field. Three lettuce genotypes, lollo rosso and red oak leaf as red-leafed genotypes and butterhead as green-leafed genotype, were studied. The influence of three nutrient solutions with low, medium and high ion concentrations, which varied in the macroanion (NO) and macrocations (K+, Ca2+ and NH), were compared in summer and winter.
RESULTS: The nutrient solutions evaluated in this study for the production of lettuce in a soilless system did not strongly influence the quality characteristics of the raw material. When the ion concentration of the nutrient solution was increased, fresh weight decreased, although it depended on the genotype and season. Maturity index and dry matter content varied with the season but independently of the nutrient solution. In summer, maturity index was higher and dry matter lower than in winter. Initial texture and visual quality were not influenced by the nutrient solution. Medium ion concentration provided the highest content of vitamin C and phenolic compounds. Our observations pointed out that the genotype had a strong influence on the shelf life of the fresh-cut product with minor differences among nutrient solutions. In general, red-leafed lettuces showed the highest antioxidant content, helping the maintenance of sensory characteristics throughout storage.
CONCLUSION: The combination of optimal nutrient solution ion concentration and suitable cultivar is considered essential to ensure lettuce post-cutting life. Copyright © 2012 Society of Chemical Industry