ABSTRACT

Quality of stored almonds is compromised by insect infestations and microbial contamination. Nitric oxide (NO) is a potent fumigant for postharvest pest control on fresh and stored products. NO fumigation must be conducted under ultralow oxygen conditions, and it always produces nitrogen dioxide (NO2), depending on the O2 level in the fumigation chamber. NO and NO2 have proven antimicrobial effects but have not been tested for efficacy against microbes in almonds. We evaluated, in this study, fumigation of unpasteurized almonds with NO2 at different levels for inhibition of bacteria and fungi. Almonds were fumigated with 0.1, 0.3, or 1.0% NO under ambient O2 to generate 0.1, 0.3, or 1.0% NO2 conditions; the fumigation treatments lasted 1 or 3 days at 25°C. GreenLight rapid enumeration tests on diluted wash-off almond samples from NO2 fumigation treatments showed either greatly reduced microbial loads or complete control of microorganisms, depending on NO2 concentration and treatment duration. NO2 fumigation was more effective against fungi than against bacteria. These results suggest that postharvest NO fumigation with proper levels of NO and NO2 can be used for insect and microorganism control on stored almonds.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • NO2 fumigation was effective in controlling both bacteria and fungi on almonds.

  • Complete control of bacteria and fungi was achieved in 1-day fumigation with 1.0% NO2.

  • Postharvest NO+NO2 fumigation has potential to control insects and microorganisms on almonds.

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