Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Tomatoes and crushing forces

An EU team studied tomato internal anatomy and response to crushing forces at the cellular level. Researchers simulated and evaluated quantitatively the damaging effects of such forces in order to allow improvements in harvesting and transport.
Tomatoes and crushing forces
Tomatoes are soft, fragile fruits that can suffer considerable damage e.g. bruising in harvesting and transport.

The EU-funded MMMDT (Multi-scale modelling of mechanical damage to tomatoes) project modelled the mechanical forces acting upon tomatoes during handling. Thus, the team was able to predict internal damage volume to the fruit.

First, the group determined the internal anatomy of tomatoes. Using scanning electron microscopy, researchers measured the thicknesses of the cuticle and cell walls and the arrangement and size of single cells in various tomato tissues. They incorporated the mean values into a finite element model, yielding 3D elements for each type of tissue.

The team assessed experimentally the multi-scale mechanical properties of tomatoes overall, each component tissue and the cells within the tissues. The consortium developed and validated models of whole-fruit compression. Using a Hertz-Maxwell model, researchers determined the peak compression force at 15 % deformation, first and second relaxation times, plus various other technical parameters. Other data were obtained from the literature. They also squashed fruits between parallel plates to determine the rupture force.

Project members later developed and validated multi-scale finite element and mechanical models of tomatoes. The models included the various textures of the internal tomato tissues, used to simulate and evaluated quantitatively the fruits’ response to compression.

Simulations of fruit deformation using the models showed that the skin did not rupture. Damaged cells were mostly located in pericarp tissues and near the stem. The damaged internal volume increased in proportional to the force.

The project satisfactorily completed all objectives. The work successfully predicted the amount of internal damage caused by even minor compression.

MMMDT’s work illustrated how tomatoes can be damaged during handling and in transit. Such work will aid the minimisation of damage and wastage, thereby improving profits.

Related information

Keywords

Tomatoes, crushing forces, internal anatomy, shipping damage, packaging, MMMDT
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