About this Research Topic
Besides increasing crop yield to feed the growing population, improving crop quality is a challenging and key issue. Indeed quality determines consumer acceptability and increases the attractivity of fresh and processed products. In this respect, fruit and vegetables, which represent a main source of vitamins and other health compounds such as antioxidant compounds, play a pivotal role in human diet. This is the case in developing countries where populations are prone to nutritional deficiencies, but this is also a pending issue worldwide, where the growing middle class is increasingly aware and in search of healthy food. So a future challenge for the global horticultural industry will be to answer the demand for better quality food in a changing environment, where many resources will be limited.
Quality is a complex trait, including size, visual attractiveness (colour, shape), overall flavour (taste and texture), health value, shelf life…etc. At each step of the production chain, specific criteria prevail depending on the end-use value of products, either intended for fresh market or for industrial transformation. These prevailing criteria are not necessarily the same throughout the chain, but they likely interact during the product life. Thus the management and improvement of quality requires the integration of knowledge from the field until purchase and consumption of fresh or processed product.
Quality results from many overlapping physiological processes, genetically and environmentally controlled during the development of harvested organs (grains, seeds, tubers, leaves or fruits). Cell division and expansion, regulation of plant carbon and water balances, primary and secondary metabolisms, as well as resource storage are main processes involved in quality build-up in the pre-harvest period. In the post-harvest periods, as maturation naturally proceeds, genetic, chemicals and environmental control can help maintain the product quality, in particular its texture. Regarding products intended for processing, technological quality traits such as color, texture, viscosity or bio-accessibility impact on the final quality. However the links between quality build-up in the pre-harvest period and its impact on the technological quality have been largely overlooked concerning fruits and vegetables and knowledges are missing to bridge this gap.
This Research Topic intends to present recent scientific progress concerning the quality of fruit and vegetable, addressing both the pre- and post-harvest periods, possibly including integrative approaches of quality management throughout the production chain. We expect multidisciplinary studies, addressing the genetic, environmental and technological understanding of quality, through experimental, integrative or modelling approaches, from the cell to the plant scale. Rather than presenting descriptive results, these studies will explore as a priority the physiological processes underscoring fruit and vegetable quality in response to environmental factors as well as their genetic variability. Concerning the post-harvest domain, studies should focus on the influence of the vegetal matrix on processing and final product quality, in order to highlight functional links between pre- and post-harvest qualities. All horticultural crops are concerned.
Keywords: quality, horticultural crops, taste, health value, fruit, vegetable