Pome fruit processors, while more tolerant of appearance, also seek good quality fruit. They are more interested in the ripeness, nutritional value, colour, texture, flavour type (dessert or culinary), and quality of the fruit, including, level of acidity, and TSS (total soluble solids), mainly sugars.
The majority of pome fruit worldwide are grown for the fresh market. Taste, size, shape and skin colouration are of major importance to the retailer and consumer who are demanding increasingly higher pome fruit quality, right throughout the year.
Fruit quality, for both fresh fruit and processing markets, is closely related to the ripening stage of a fruit. Timing of harvest is critical. Growers need to ensure fruit is at the right stage and will not deteriorate in storage. Fruit that is too immature will be starchy and have poor aroma. Over-ripe fruit will be more susceptible to storage diseases and breakdown.
Healthy pome fruits are also less susceptible to develop bitter pit, lenticel blotch incidence and water core. An unhealthy crop will not meet the expectation of the consumer and will be rejected in the market. It will therefore reduce grower’s income and be a waste of resource. A pome fruit crop which is not in a healthy condition can develop internal breakdown, sunscald/sunburn and alfalfa greening.
It can also have poorer defense mechanisms and less tolerance against fungi, insects and abiotic stress, affecting the overall crop growth and quality.
Crop nutrition is essential to ensure nutrients don’t limit pome fruit quality.