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Article|01 Aug 2021|OPEN
Cuticle and skin cell walls have common and unique roles in grape berry splitting
Ben-Min Chang1 & Markus Keller1,
1Department of Horticulture, Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center, Washington State University, Prosser, WA, USA

Horticulture Research 8,
Article number: 168 (2021)
doi: 10.1038/hortres.2021.168
Views: 297

Received: 09 Feb 2021
Revised: 21 May 2021
Accepted: 24 May 2021
Published online: 01 Aug 2021

Abstract

The skin protects a fruit from environmental stresses and supports the fruit’s structure. Failure of the skin leads to fruit splitting and may compromise commercial production for fruit growers. The mechanical properties of the cuticle and skin cell walls might influence the splitting susceptibility of fleshy fruits. Thin shell theory and fracture mechanics were utilized in this study to target the potential factors contributing to splitting susceptibility. The study analyzed the structure of the cuticle and epidermis in ripening grape berries and examined the temporal dynamics of berry splitting. Cuticular waxes were partially removed, and skin cell walls were manipulated using wall stiffening and loosening solutions that altered reactions involving hydrogen peroxide. A more than twofold difference in cuticle thickness among grape cultivars did not account for their differences in splitting resistance. However, while removing predominantly epicuticular wax did not alter the berries’ splitting resistance, their surface appearance and increasing yield strength following partial wax removal support the notion that cuticular waxes contribute to berry mechanical properties. Immersing berries in H2O2-based cell wall loosening solutions increased the splitting probability and accelerated berry splitting, whereas cell wall stiffening solutions decreased the splitting probability and delayed berry splitting. These results showed that both cuticle and skin cell walls contribute to the mechanical properties of grape berries and to their splitting resistance. The results also suggest that the two current explanations for fruit splitting, the critical turgor model and the zipper model, should be viewed as complementary rather than incompatible.