American scientists have found evidence that insect leaf-wounding could provide crop benefits in fruit and vegetable production.
The researchers from Texas A&M AgriLife say that stress created in the fruits and vegetables initiated an increase in antioxidant compounds prior to harvest, making them healthier for human consumption.
“We conducted studies using strawberries as a crop model and applied various levels of wounding to the leaves a few days before harvesting the fruit. We found how several genes associated with sugar translocation and phenolic compound biosynthesis were overexpressed in the distant strawberry fruit,” said Facundo Ibanez, PhD. an investigator for the project. “Healthier grown produce for the food industry can be a driving force for large-scale production and an attractive investment to relevant stakeholders.”
The idea that stress factors can improve fruit or vegetable quality has been suggested for many years, but until now most attempts to study the phenomenon have produced inconclusive results.
“Our team has elucidated a controversy that was an open question for many years,” said Luis Cisneros-Zevallos, PhD, who also worked on the project. “Understanding how these antioxidants are produced by a simple stress like wounding can certainly transform the way the fresh produce industry operates, including both organic and conventional. And it may allow the industry to adopt novel tools based on pre-harvest stress to favour the accumulation of healthier antioxidants in fresh produce and processed foods.”
Photo Caption: Insect damage to leaves can improve the quality of strawberries produced
Photo credit: Dietmar Rabich via Wikipedia