Washington, July 14 : Researchers have identified air pathways that help apples and pears breathe and prevent them from rotting.
These air pathways are minute structures for oxygen supply and are key elements in determining the fruit's health.
The team from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) have found that pathways in apples appear as irregular cavities between cells, while in pears they have the shape of tiny interconnected channels
They hope that their findings would help in understanding how the fruit degrades after harvest.
Apples and pears continue to "breathe" after picking. To keep the fruit healthy, a minimum level of oxygen must be supplied to all cells of the fruit.
With the lack of oxygen, internal browning disorders appear and fruit quality decreases, therefore fruit is stored in dedicated cool rooms with accurate control of oxygen levels.
With the help of X-ray images, researchers determined and explained gas exchange rates, and when fruit cells die leading to rotting of the fruit.
"It is still unclear how airways in the fruit develop, and why apples have cavity structures and pears micro-channel networks", said Pieter Verboven, from the Catholic University of Leuven and corresponding author of the paper.
However, the results do help explain why pears are so prone to decay during storage.
"The micro-channels are so small that oxygen supply to the fruit core is very limited and cells are quickly 'out of breath' when oxygen levels fall below the safety threshold", he added.
The study appears in the recent issue of Plant Physiology.