The effect of pre-harvest pruning of cassava upon root deterioration and quality characteristics

QEA van Oirschot, GM O'Brien, D Dufour, MA El-Sharkawy, E Mesa

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    One of the major constraints of cassava as a crop is its perishability. Physiological deterioration, parenchymal blue-black vascular streaking, often starts within 24h after harvest. This paper presents the results of a detailed study of the effects of pre-harvest pruning upon post-harvest physiological deterioration (PPD) and some other quality characteristics. Six cultivars, grown at CIAT (Centro International de Agricultura Tropical), with varying intrinsic susceptibility to PPD, were assessed at pruning-harvest intervals of 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 15, 20, 25, 28 and 39 days. After harvesting, the roots were analysed. For the unpruned plants a low susceptibility was found to coincide with a low dry matter content and a high sugar content. After pruning, the susceptibility for all cultivars was drastically reduced, reaching a minimum of around 25% of the original value for a pruning-harvest interval of up to 25 days. Beyond this interval the plants slowly develop new leaf canopy, normal assimilation sets in again and the starch content increases. Analysis of the cassava roots revealed a relationship between the combined sugar and starch contents and the interval duration, and that sugar and starch contents were inversely related to each other. The sugar content increased with the interval period, probably as a result of starch hydrolysis. Other properties such as the contents of dry matter, cyanogen, scopoletin, amylose and reducing sugars and the starch pasting properties were not affected by pruning to a comparable, interval-dependent, extent. It is concluded that the sugar content, ie the sugar/starch ratio, of cassava roots is positively related to their resistance to post-harvest physiological deterioration. (C) 2000 Society of Chemical Industry.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1866-1873
    JournalJournal of the Science of Food and Agriculture
    Issue number13
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Oct 2000


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