X-Ray Micro-Computer Tomographic Method to Visualize the Microstructure of Different Apple Cultivars



Apples are appreciated for their texture with firmness acting as an indicator of quality. During prolonged storage, apples can soften and their texture can become undesirably mealy. Using an X-ray microcomputer tomography (μ-CT) scanner, the porosity (ratio of intercellular space [IS] to total volume) and the structural arrangement of the parenchyma tissue of 4 apple cultivars (Braeburn, Fuji, Golden Delicious, Jazz) stored under similar conditions for 100 d were visualized via the development of 2D and 3D images. The texture of the apples was also measured using a puncture test. The morphometric and textural measurements revealed that firm Jazz apples (flesh firmness: 29.84N) had a lower porosity (17%) compared to soft Golden Delicious apples (flesh firmness: 14.16N; porosity: 29.8%). In general, firm apples had a higher dry matter (%) and a lower porosity (%), while the reverse was true for softer apples. However, this was not an absolute trend as cultivar specific differences in the microstructural organization and consequent mechanical strength of the parenchyma tissue also influenced firmness. For example, although Fuji apples were firm (28.42N), they had a high porosity (29.3%) due to the presence of numerous small and compact IS. In comparison, soft Golden Delicious apples had a high porosity (29.8%) due to the presence of large, interconnected IS. Imaging technologies have the potential to provide a pictorial or graphical database showing the size range distribution of IS corresponding to different parenchyma tissue types and how they relate to apple texture and eating quality.

Practical Application

μ-CT scanning is a relatively quick and noninvasive technique that can be used to visualize the 3D microstructure parenchyma of apples. Measurement time is 33 min for a cylinder (height: 12 mm; diameter: 11 mm) at a resolution of 1800×1048 pixels. The resulting 3D images of the sample are acquired without the need for staining or other sample manipulation. The visualization of apple cultivar microstructures contributes toward understanding how the microstructure influences tissue breakdown during mastication and eating quality.