Effects of time, cultivar, and storage environment on winter squash in semiarid Montana

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Date

2023

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Agriculture

Abstract

Winter squash can be stored for months after harvest while taste, texture, and color attributes improve. The potential for producers to attain greater storage longevity and produce better squash would benefit farmers, consumers, and economies. Due to variation in local climates and the respective vendors' needs, understanding how to control a storage environment can be challenging. This research looks at how storage environment and storage period affect biochemical and physical attributes of ten varieties of winter squash in a semiarid climate. The varieties include three Cucurbita pepo, one Cucurbita moschata, one Cucurbita maxima x moschata hybrid, and five Cucurbita maxima cultivars. Two storage environments were used for analysis. One was located indoors and cooled to 53 degrees F while the other was built into an existing barn with a heating unit and insulation to keep the temperature above freezing. A total of 240 winter squash were placed in each storage space. A completely randomized design was used to assign categorical treatments of storage time to each winter squash, with six levels of treatment being implemented. Each variety of squash (n=4) was analyzed monthly in each storage environment for changes in soluble solids, dry matter, starch content, interior color and exterior color (using CIELAB color values L*, a*, b*), and mass. The temperature and relative humidity of each storage environment were also monitored and recorded hourly during the same period. Cultivar was always the most significant factor. There was no simple effect of the storage environment on dry matter, soluble solids, starch content, or mass. There was a strong significant interaction observed between time and cultivar for each response variable, which shows us that the type of squash and how long it should be stored for are important when discussing quality. Storage did have a significant effect on the a* value of interior color, which is an indicator of quality and nutritional value. The biochemical and physical attributes of each cultivar analyzed varied greatly in its response to the amount of time in storage which in turn influences the taste, texture, and sensory quality of each cultivar uniquely.

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