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A study of variation in the tendency for postharvest discoloration in a lettuce (Lactuca sativa) diversity set

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Correspondent: Fax: 0044 (0) 118 378 7708; e-mail: l.d.atkinson@reading.ac.uk

Summary

Lettuce as a component of processed salad packs often suffers from pinking or browning discoloration on leaf surfaces within a few days after harvest limiting product shelf life. A lettuce diversity set representing the primary gene pool was used to investigate phenotypic variation for postharvest discoloration. Discoloration of minimally processed lettuce was assessed using material harvested from a replicated field trial. Significant variation for pinking and browning was recorded (P < 0.001). Rates of discoloration were specific to lettuce type, however potential for pinking or browning within a type varied. Interestingly, accessions were significantly more susceptible to browning (P < 0.05) early postharvest (day 1) but significantly more susceptible to pinking (P < 0.05) during later stages (days 6, 9 and 13). The results indicate that there is a genetic basis for this phenotypic variation and this natural allelic variation could be exploited through breeding to develop discoloration resistant cultivars, consequently minimising pre- and postharvest treatments and reducing food wastage.

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