Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Keeping Australia's Melons Delicious and Safe

Australia produces about 200,000 tonnes of rockmelons, honeydew melons and watermelons each year, an industry worth over A$100 million. The majority of melon production in Australia occurs in Queensland (Qld), New South Wales (NSW) and Western Australia (WA).

ACIAR is supporting research in the Philippines that also has benefits here in Australia for our important fruit and vegetable industries, including the melon industry. This work is ensuring the development and sustainability of high-quality Australian melons including rockmelons and watermelons.

Research of melons is part of the ACIAR-funded project ‘Integrated Crop Management to enhance vegetable profitability and food security in the Southern Philippines and Australia’ (HORT/ 2012 / 020) which is providing research solutions to both the Philippines and Australia.

Rockmelons are a delicious, distinctively flaboured fruit that are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin  C and potassium [Source:]

Rockmelons are a delicious, distinctively flavoured fruit that are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium

The ACIAR Australian work is examining ways to ensure the most efficient washing and sanitation practices are conducted prior to shipping melons to markets.

Andrew Watson and Donald Irving (retired) from the Yanco Agricultural Institute of the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI), conducted preliminary work in 2014. They are examining the best ways to apply fungicides and how to optimize packing house processes to ensure long shelf life and safe melons for consumers.

They found that the fungus Fusarium was a common potential cause of fruit rot but the fungicides used had no efficacy against the fungus. The fungi regularly isolated from fruit included Fusarium, Alternaria, Rhizopus, Penicillium, Aspergillus and Didymella. In fact fruit going through a chlorine dip followed by a fungicide had minimal reduction of these organisms. The most likely explanation of this is the netted surface of the rock melon and the lack of effective fungicide dips for rockmelons.

Damage which can result from fungal infection of rockmelon which highlights the need for fungicide dipping combined with cool chain handling [Source: Andrew Watson]

Because the melon processing system examined had correct storage temperatures and cool chain handling, there were no major rejections of fruit or safety concerns. Nevertheless, the research team will continue to work with melon producers to ensure cost- effective postharvest handling options are available and melons remain a safe and delicious food.

They are now working closely with a major melon producer to trial a newly released fungicide for rockmelons.

In 2015, Andrew Watson and Dr Singh, a postharvest researcher from NSW DPI Ourimbah, will examine consumer quality attributes of rockmelons such as shelf life, firmness and disease incidence and how these vary with different packing house processes.

By Andrew Watson, NSW Department of Primary Industries

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