Common Disorders of ‘Honeycrisp’ Apples

Soft scald is a major chilling-related disorder that is characterized by sharply defined, irregularly shaped, smooth, brown lesions of the skin.  Peel tissue is initially affected and then hypodermal tissue is damaged as the disorder continues to develop.  Skin lesions are often then invaded by secondary pathogens and disease.  Prior to cold storage at 3oC, conditioning at 10oC for 1 week is recommended to reduce the incidence of soft scald and soggy breakdown. 

Soggy breakdown is another major chilling-related disorder, which is distinguished by moist, soft, brown, spongy flesh tissue.  It can form complete rings in severe cases.  Apples harvested at advanced maturity are more susceptible to soft scald and soggy breakdown, while chilling temperatures in the orchard before harvest will further promote development.  Both disorders have also been found in ‘Honeycrisp’ apples prior to harvest.

Bitter pit may appear prior to harvest or during storage, and usually develops in the calyx end of the fruit.  Pits are dark, sunken lesions at or beneath the fruit surface.  Bitter pit can develop more rapidly at warmer temperatures, so conditioning at 10oC is a compromise between bitter pit development and chilling-related disorders such as soft scald.  The cause for bitter pit is a mineral imbalance in the apple flesh, associated with low levels of calcium.  There is sometimes confusion between bitter pit and lenticel breakdown.

Lenticel breakdown is characterized by darkened or black lenticels, or superficial brown spots surrounding lenticels. The lesions may become sunken over time and allow for the invasion of pathogens. Fruit with advanced fruit maturity are more susceptibility, as well as those in long-term storage. The disorder can be aggravated by various chemicals and coatings.

Peel blotch or lenticel blotch pit is similar to both bitter pit and lenticel breakdown, characterized by irregular shaped sunken patches around lenticels.  Larger lesions often coalesce and it is more common around the calyx end like bitter pit.  Peel blotch severity increases with extended storage durations and warmer temperatures, and it can be exacerbated by 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP).  Severe cases are sometimes called leather blotch.

Internal browning, or diffuse flesh browning, has no definite outline of the injured area. It may affect outer flesh or core tissue, or both areas.  Vascular elements often appear normal and there are usually no external symptoms.  Apples harvested at advanced maturity are more susceptible to internal browning, for which it is sometimes called senescent browning in ‘Honeycrisp’.

CO2-injury can easily develop in ‘Honeycrisp’, as it is very sensitive to CO2.  Internal CO2 injury, with or without flesh cavities, can be common in ‘Honeycrisp’ stored in controlled atmosphere (CA), but it has also been observed in ambient air storage.  Risk of this injury is slightly higher in less mature fruit and the use of 1-MCP can enhance it.  Delaying CA establishment for 1‑2 months has been shown to reduce the disorder.  CA consisting of 3% O2 + 1.5-3% CO2 at 3oC is recommended for ‘Honeycrisp’.  Treatment with diphenylamine (DPA) can also decrease the incidence of CO2 injury, and thus allow for the higher end of CO2 concentrations (3%) in CA storage.


Thanks to the Ontario Apple Growers, Apple Marketers’ Association of Ontario, Les producteurs de pommes du Québec, AgroFresh Inc., and Storage Control Systems Inc. for their support; as well as to Norfolk Fruit Growers’ Association and Pommes Philip Cassidy Inc. for their direct collaboration.  Recent work pertaining to ‘Honeycrisp’ storage has been funded in part through Growing Forward 2, as part of the Canadian Agri-Science Cluster for Horticulture 2 and the Agri-Innovation program in partnership with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Canadian Horticultural Council. 

Dr. Jennifer DeEll
Dr. Jennifer DeEll

Fresh Market Quality Specialist, OMAFRA