Aims: This study compares the effect of temperature (4–37°C) and water activity (aw: 0·99–0·87) and their interactions on the germination rates, lag times prior to germination and mycelial growth ‘in vitro’ of Penicillium digitatum, P. italicum and Geotrichum candidum, the main postharvest pathogens affecting citrus fruits.
Methods and Results: Germination and growth were markedly influenced by temperature and aw. Generally, lag times were longer and germination and growth rates were slower when conditions of temperature and aw were far from optimum. All the studied species were able to germinate over a range of 4–30°C at 0·995 aw, although in non-optimal conditions P. digitatum only reached 40–60% of germinated conidia. At low temperatures, P. italicum germinated and grew faster than P. digitatum and G. candidum, particularly at 0·95 aw. Penicillium italicum was also able to germinate and grow in the driest studied conditions (0·87 aw), while G. candidum did not germinate under 0·95 aw.
Conclusions: Knowledge of the ecological requirements of these fungi is important in order to understand their behaviour in natural situations and to predict fungal spoilage on citrus fruits.