ABSTRACT

Fungal pathogens cause surface contamination and potential premature fruit spoilage of bambinella, a fruit endemic to the Maltese islands, leading to the loss of fruit during the postharvest phase. The objective of this study was to isolate, quantify, and characterize fungal contaminants of the small Maltese June Pear and describe their growth kinetics. In total, 284 fungicide-free fruits were collected over three consecutive summers (2014, 2015, 2016). The isolated fungi were identified by using forward and reverse colonial morphology. Species identification was determined using PCR-based methods. The number of CFU per square centimeter of bambinella outer skin was calculated. Mycelium diameter growth rate studies of the isolates were also carried out at seven different temperatures, ranging from 5 to 35°C. Fungi isolated from bambinella included Cladosporium ramotenellum, Alternaria arborescens, Penicillium lanosum, Penicillium expansum, and Aspergillus sydowii, listed from the most abundant to the least abundant. The Rosso model was fitted to the growth kinetic data and showed that the optimal temperatures for growth of all five fungi were in the range of 20 to 22°C, whereas growth was slower at temperatures below 10°C and above 30°C. As observed in the diameter studies, the order of highest to lowest germination rate was found to be P. expansum, A. sydowii, P. lanosum, C. ramotenellum, and A. arborescens. Germination studies showed that the highest germination rate was observed for P. lanosum, followed by A. arborescens, C. ramotenellum, P. expansum, and A. sydowii, in descending order. The highest germination lag time was observed for A. arborescens, followed by C. ramotenellum, P. expansum, P. lanosum, and A. sydowii, in ascending order.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • The most prevalent fungus found in harvested bambinella was C. ramotenellum.

  • The highest germination rate on bambinella contaminants was observed for P. lanosum.

  • Predictive mycology tools could be applied for the estimation of fungal cardinal values.

  • Use of a 3D laser scanner allowed the estimation of the surface area of bambinella specimens.

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