BIBLIOTECA HORTICULTURA

BIBLIOTECA HORTICULTURA

Basic research at VCBT

Basic research at VCBT

Basic research, by Flanders Centre of Postharvest Technology (VCBT),  aims at improving our understanding of the metabolic processes of fruit and vegetables during storage, and developing new methodologies to measure and monitor postharvest quality changes. This research is strategic and technology-driven.

A first line of research aims at developing new techniques to measure and predict quality changes in the postharvest chain.We are concentrating on texture, flavour and health components. Special emphasis goes to the development of high-throughput and nondestructive techniques such as acoustic methods for firmness, near infrared spectroscopy for taste components and electronic noses for aroma. Mathematical modelling techniques are used extensively to describe and predict quality changes during the supply chain, and we are specifically studying the effect of biological variability on model predictions.

A second line of research focuses on postharvest physiology. Fruit are often stored at low temperature under controlled atmosphere conditions to reduce their respiration rate and, hence, extend their storage life. When the O2 and CO2 partial pressure is too low or too high, respectively, physiological disorders may occur. Conference pears, for example, are susceptible to core breakdown during controlled atmosphere storage. This storage disorder is characterised by the development of brown tissue which will further develop into cavities so that the fruit can no longer be commercialised. It involves gas and water exchange of the fruit with its environment as well as metabolic changes at the cellular level. We are adopting a computational biology approach to study this model system in which we both consider biophysical processes such as gas and water transport and mechanical deformation, as well as biochemical processes associated with respiration. To account for the multiple spatial scales involved in these processes we are adopting the multiscale modelling paradigm. Such models essentially are a hierarchy of submodels which describe the biophysical processes at different spatial scales, from individual cell to entire fruit and even cool room, in such a way that the submodels are interconnected. Biochemical processes are studied via metabolic network models, and we are applying metabolomics and proteomics techniques to gather supporting data on metabolic fluxes in cells and mitochondria under different gas conditions.

The VCBT collaborates closely with the MeBioS division of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven on basic research.

The VCBT is involved in the following basic research projects.