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Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality


Mary Lu Arpaia1 and Adel A. Kader2

1Dept. of Botany and Plant Sciences, Univ. of California, Riverside

2Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis

Maturity & Quality
Maturity Indices

Juice content by volume of 30% or higher and color (mature-green limes have a much longer postharvest-life than those picked when yellow; the latter must be marketed soon after harvest).

Quality Indices

Color (most consumers in the USA prefer green limes but in some other countries consumers prefer yellow limes because of their greater juice content); size; shape; firmness; smoothness; freedom from decay; and freedom from defects including bruises, oil spotting, dryness, freezing injury, and stylar-end breakdown.

Temperature & Controlled Atmosphere
Optimum Temperature

10-13°C (50-55°F) depending on cultivar, maturity-ripeness stage at harvest, and duration of storage + transport (up to 6-8 weeks).

Optimum Relative Humidity


Rates of Respiration
Temperature 10°C (50°F) 15°C (59°F) 20°C (68°F)
ml CO2/kg·hr 3-5 5-8 6-10

To calculate heat production multiply ml CO2/kg·hr by 440 to get Btu/ton/day or by 122 to get kcal/metric ton/day.

Rates of Ethylene Production
Responses to Ethylene

Ethylene causes limes to lose their green color and unmask their yellow pigments, which is undesirable for marketing green limes. Removal of ethylene from lime storage facilities can be beneficial in retarding loss of green color and delaying decay incidence.

Responses to Controlled Atmospheres (CA)

A combination of 5-10% O2 and 0-10% CO2 retards senescence (loss of green color) of limes, but is inadequate for decay control. Exposure to >10% CO2 and/ or <5% O2 can result in scald-like injury, decreased juice content, off-flavors, and increased susceptibility to decay. Commercial use of CA on limes is very limited.

Temperature & Controlled Atmosphere Photos

Title: Degreening

Photo Credit: Adel Kader, UC Davis

Physiological and Physical Disorders

Chilling injury. Symptoms include pitting, and brown discoloration. Pits Disorders may coalesce and form leathery, brown, sunken areas on the rind. Severity increases with lower temperature below 10°C (50°F) and longer durations of exposure to these temperatures.

Oil spotting (Oleocellosis). Harvesting and handling turgid limes may result in breakage of oil cells in the flavedo and release of the oil that damages surrounding tissues.

Stylar-end Breakdown. This disorder results from rough handling during harvesting and handling. Its severity varies among cultivars and harvest seasons.

Pathological Disorders

Important Diseases:

  • Green mold (Penicillium digitatum)
  • Blue mold (Penicillium italicum)
  • Stem-end rot (Lasiodiplodia theobromae)
  • Phomopsis stem-end rot (Phomopsis citri)
  • Alternaria stem-end rot (Alternaria citri)
Control Strategies
  • Minimizing abrasions, cuts, and bruises during handling
  • Treating limes before harvest with gibberellic acid to delay senescence
  • Dipping in hot water (50-53°C = 120-125°F) for 2-3 minutes
  • Using chlorine in wash water, postharvest fungicides, and or biological antagonists
  • Cooling to optimum temperature and subsequent maintenance of optimum temperature and relative humidity
  • Avoiding exposure to ethylene

Disorders Photos

Title: Blue Mold

Photo Credit: Don Edwards, UC Davis

Title: Chilling Injury 

Photo Credit: Adel Kader, UC Davis 

Title: Phomopsis Rot

Photo Credit: Don Edwards, UC Davis


May 1999

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Except for these specified uses, no part of the textual materials available on the UC Postharvest Technology Center Web site may be copied, downloaded, stored in a retrieval system, further transmitted or otherwise reproduced, stored, disseminated, transferred or used, in any form or by any means, except as permitted herein or with the University of California's prior written agreement. Request permission from UC Postharvest Technology Center. Distribution for commercial purposes is prohibited.

The information in this fact sheet represents our best understanding of the current state of knowledge at the time of the latest update, and does not represent an exhaustive review of all research results. Links to any of these UC Postharvest Technology Center pages are permitted, but no endorsement of the linking site or products mentioned in the linking page is intended or implied by such a link.

How to Cite

Author(s) names. Initial publication or update date (located at the top). Title. Link to the specific Produce Fact Sheet webpage (Accessed date)

Example: Cantwell, M. and T. Suslow. 2002. Lettuce, Crisphead: Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality. (Accessed January 18, 2014).

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