Preharvest factors influence postharvest quality of tomatoes. Whereas water stress improves fruit total soluble solids; and polyethylene is used for packaging of fresh horticultural produce, little is known about their combined effects on quality and shelf life of tomatoes. The objective of this study was to investigate the independent and interactive effects of deficit irrigation and packaging on postharvest quality and shelf life of tomatoes. The experiment was a split plot arranged in a Randomized Complete Block Design with three replicates. Packaging was the main treatment and water levels the sub treatments. Water treatments were 20, 40, 60, 80 and 100% of pot capacity (PC). Packaging treatments were perforated, non-perforated and non-packaged (control). Fruits harvested at breaker stage were stored at 21±2ºC. Quality parameters assessed were fruit weight loss, colour change, firmness, total soluble solids, titratable acidity and shelf life. Polyethylene bags commonly used in the market (22 x 6.37 cm of size; 0.02 mm of thickness) were used as packaging material. At 16 days storage, unpackaged fruit had lost 34.23% of initial weight compared to 9.06% in perforated and 4.43% in non-perforated packaging. At 8 days of storage, 20% PC fruits were firmer than 80% PC fruits. At 10 days storage, 20% PC fruits were firmer compared to those from 40 and 80% PC. Total Soluble Solids (TSS) increased with decrease in moisture level. At 10 DAH, the lowest TSS was recorded in fruits subjected to 100% PC and highest in 40% PC. Deficit Irrigation effectively regulates tomato fruit quality; and combining it with packaging can enhance shelf life of tomato fruits.
Key words: Water stress, packaging, fruit firmness, total soluble solids (TSS).
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