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Controlling Mediterranean fruit fly and improving citrus fruit quality by post-harvest heat treatments

Contract nr: FAIR-CT98-4096
Project nr: 4096
Project type: SC
Starting date: 01/04/1999
Duration: 36 months
Total cost: 2,030,245 EUR
EC Contribution: 1,216,123 EUR
Scientific Officer: Massimo BURIONI
Research topic: Plant health
Acronym: Medfly, Heat and Citrus Quality

The production of fruits and vegetables has reached a very high level in the EC and is an important source of income for many European farmers, transporting companies and traders. In fact, in many areas there is a surplus of production and export markets are being explored. The far-east markets (Japan, P. R. of China, S. Korea, Taiwan, etc.), in particular, are developing quickly and could become a major outlet for the export of fresh citrus fruit from the Mediterranean region.
A major obstacle, however, is the strict quarantine regulations imposed by those countries to prevent the introduction of exotic pests such as the Mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata Wiedemann. Currently the most widely used post-harvest treatment for citrus involves the exposure of the fruit to near-freezing temperatures for 10-16 days. Unfortunately, many citrus cultivars cannot tolerate the cold treatment and develop chilling injury, so alternative treatments are urgently needed to expand the selection of citrus varieties for export.

The objectives of the project are to:
1. develop alternative abiotic quarantine treatments instead of cold quarantine;
2. determine fruit fly response, including thermo-tolerance development, the response of hsp70 in the insect, its use as a marker to determine treatment efficacy; and to predict successful treatments;
3. determine how treatments successful in controlling fruit fly affect fungal pathogens;
4. determine biochemical responses of the fruit, including induction or maintenance of defence responses against insects and fungi;
5. isolate stress genes and characterise them;
6. determine the effect of the treatments on fruit quality and organoleptic properties, and to test the successful treatments under semi-commercial conditions.

Each country will develop abiotic treatments for those local citrus cultivars which are sensitive to chilling injury. The treatments to be tested include high temperature (hot water or hot air), low oxygen, high carbon dioxide, and combinations of these to reduce treatment time.

Current situation/results:
Fruit flies, both laboratory reared and wild strains, have been tested for sensitivity to temperatures between 40-50_C. Sensitivity to low oxygen and/or high carbon dioxide is currently being determined. On the basis of this data, trials are beginning with citrus to find a time-temperature combination which will kill the insect without damaging the fruit.

Agricultural Research Organisation
P.O.B. 6
IL-50 250 Bet Dagan
Tel: +972 39 68 36 06
Fax: +972 39 68 36 22


  • Angelos KANELLIS
    National Agricultural Research Foundation
    Egialias 19 & Halepa
    GR-15125 Marousi
    Tel: +30 81 24 58 51
    Fax: +30 81 24 58 58

  • Benito ORIHUEL
    Anecoop Sociedad Cooperativa
    Monforte 1
    E-46010 Valencia
    Tel: +34 96 393 85 12
    Fax: +34 96 393 85 51

  • Maria Teresa LAFUENTE
    Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas
    C/ Serrano 117
    E-28006 Madrid
    Tel: +34 91 390 00 22
    Fax: +34 91 363 63 01

  • Mario Mauro SCHIRRA
    CNR - Istituto per la Fisiologia della Maturazione e Conservazione del Frutto delle Specie Arboree Mediterranee
    Localita' Palloni Nuraxinieddu
    I-09170 Oristano
    Tel: +39 078 33 32 24
    Fax: +39 078 33 39 59

  • Yoram ROSSLER
    Citrus Marketing Board
    P.O.B. 80
    IL-50 250 Bet Dagan
    Tel: +972 32 68 38 17
    Fax: +972 39 68 38 38

  • Aristidis P. ECONOMOPOULOS
    Foundation for Research and Technology Hellas
    Vasilika Vouton
    GR-71110 Heraklion
    Tel: +30 81 39 32 90
    Fax: +30 81 23 91 55
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