POST HARVEST STORAGE OF BIOFORTIFIED MAIZE IN PURDUE IMPROVED CROP STORAGE (PICS) BAGS AND EFFECT ON SUBSEQUENT FLOUR RHEOLOGY AND CAROTENOID BIOACCESSIBILITY
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Successful adoption of biofortified orange maize in developing countries requires careful consideration of factors across the chain from farm to fork. This includes consideration of post-harvest storage conditions optimal for the retention of both proviatamin A carotenoids and cooking quality critical to consumers. In these considerations, identification of economical storage methods is critical considering the limitations within specific countries that biofortified maize is being disseminated. To address these points, this dissertation research focused on evaluation of the utility of the Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS) bags as a post-harvest storage solution for biofortified maize. The specific focus of this research was to monitor retention of provitamin A and other carotenoids in two biofortified maize genotypes (OPVI and OPVII) as well as storage effect on flour functionality. Finally, a preliminary assessment of the impacts of storage on carotenoid bioaccessibility was completed to begin to translate findings to practice.
Maize grain from 2016 harvest was stored at ambient conditions for eight months in either PICS bags with or without an O2 scavenger, (PICS-oxy) and (PICS-noxy), respectively and compared to storage in common polypropylene woven bags (control). After 4 months of storage carotenoid content was significantly higher (p<0.05) in PICS-oxy compared to PICS-noxy and woven bags demonstrating the importance of entrapped oxygen on maize carotenoid degradation. Furthermore, differences in carotenoid stability between maize genotypes were observed with OPVI having higher retention than OPVII. After 8 months, carotenoid retention remained dependent on storage bag and genotype with retention being greater in PICS-oxy and PICS-noxy compared to woven bags. However, final levels after 8 months were more similar between storage methods. Overall, oxygen content and genotype were found to be determining factors in the effectiveness of PICS to mitigate carotenoid degradation during post-harvest storage of maize.
While reducing the rate of carotenoid degradation during postharvest storage of biofortified maize is important, success of biofortified maize is also dependent on consumer adoption of these grains and their performance in traditional food preparation. Assessment of the rheological and functional properties of these two biofortified maize genotypes as a function of post-harvest storage was completed to assess the impact of post-harvest storage in PICS bags on flour functionality and rheological properties for the two biofortified orange maize genotypes and a control white maize genotype. Flour pasting profiles were assessed initially and at 4 and 8 months. After 8 month storage in woven and PICS bag, OPVI and OPVII produced porridges with similar viscosities to their initial viscosities regardless of postharvest storage type. White maize viscosities progressively decreased with storage and were significantly lower (p<0.05) in woven compared to PICS storage. Sequestration of oxygen (PICS-oxy) had modest but significant effects (p<0.05) on key pasting parameters including peak and final viscosities. These results suggest that oxygen sequestration has a critical effect on final flour functionality. DTT treatment partially restored flour pasting profiles suggesting disulfide linkages may modify pasting profiles of flour. There was also an increase in free ferrulic and p-coumaric acids during storage which may have contributed to observed decreases in porridge viscosities. Evidence of this was found through Raman spectroscopy with spectral intensity at both 478cm-1 and 2911cm-1 decreasing with storage suggesting the potential for structural changes induced by storage on starch polymer. While storage in PICS bags does not seem to adversely affect flour functionality it may provide some additional economic benefit resulting from requiring proportionally less flour to achieve similar final viscosities as flour from woven bag stored grains.
Finally, the effect of postharvest storage on bioaccessibility of carotenoids was explored using experimental wet cooked porridges made from ‘fresh’ and stored grains using an established three stage in-vitro digestion model. Relative carotenoid bioaccessibility (% micellarization) was generally higher in less viscous porridge made from grains stored in woven bags compared to porridge from initial or PICS bags stored grains suggesting that higher viscosity might partly explain lower relative bioaccessibility in porridge from grains stored in PICS bags. Absolute carotenoid bioaccessibility from experimental porridge was dependent on carotenoid species and storage system. Extrapolation of relative bioaccessibility (%) to absolute bioaccessibility (µg/g flour) suggests that fresh grains and their corresponding porridges would provide more absolute bioaccessible carotenoids compared to stored grains despite some improvement in relative accessibility. As such, storage losses remain the main factor impacting total available carotenoids and should continue to be an area of focus for future mitigation. With the potential to minimize post-harvest losses, improve carotenoid retention and provide a product with improved cooking performance, PICS bags do appear to offer a viable storage alternative to improve both food and nutrition security in developing countries.