The influence of postharvest curing temperature and duration on development of slippery skin (caused by Burkholderia gladioli pv. alliicola) and sour skin (caused by B. cepacia) in onion (Allium cepa) bulbs during storage was evaluated by inoculating bulbs of the storage cultivars ‘Redwing’ and ‘Vaquero’ with each of the pathogens after harvest, curing the bulbs at 25, 30, 35, or 40°C for 2 or 14 days, and storing the bulbs at 5°C for 1, 2, or 3 months. Noninoculated bulbs and bulbs injected with sterile water served as control treatments. The onion bulbs were from drip-irrigated, commercial onion crops grown in the semiarid Columbia Basin of central Washington in 2009 and 2010. Each bulb was cut through the point of inoculation from the neck to the basal plate to assess severity of bulb rot (percentage of cut bulb surface area with bacterial rot symptoms) after 1, 2, or 3 months of storage. Bulb rot severity in the 2009–10 and 2010–11 trials was negligible for noninoculated bulbs (mean of 4.0 and 4.5%, respectively) and bulbs injected with water (6.2 and 10.1%, respectively) compared with bulbs inoculated with B. cepacia (34.6 and 39.8%, respectively) and B. gladioli pv. alliicola (20.7 and 27.4%, respectively). Bulbs inoculated with B. cepacia developed significantly more severe rot than those inoculated with B. gladioli pv. alliicola, even though a 10-fold greater inoculum concentration was used for B. gladioli pv. alliicola, demonstrating the more aggressive nature of B. cepacia compared with B. gladioli pv. alliicola. Severity of bulb decay caused by B. cepacia or B. gladioli pv. alliicola was affected significantly (P < 0.05) by season (trial), cultivar, curing temperature, curing duration, and storage duration, with significant interactions among these factors. In both trials and for both pathogens, bulb rot was significantly more severe the greater the curing temperature and the severity of bulb rot was significantly greater when bulbs were cured for 14 versus 2 days prior to cold storage. Overall, the severity of bulb rot was greater with a longer duration of storage after curing. This increase in bulb rot severity, which resulted from an increase in curing temperature and duration, was significantly greater for Vaquero than Redwing and significantly greater for bulbs inoculated with B. cepacia than B. gladioli pv. alliicola. The results suggest that postharvest curing at temperatures <35°C for a limited duration can significantly reduce the severity of sour skin or slippery skin in storage.
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