A wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables is attacked by Penicillium species causing diseases during their postharvest handling. Many of these species are psychrotrophic and they are able to cause food spoilage at refrigeration temperature as happens with table grapes. After the harvest, grape bunches are stored inside boxes with SO generator pads to reduce the contamination with fungal conidia. However, SO residues are dangerous to people allergic to sulfites and they negatively affect the quality of fresh fruit. Biological control of phytopathogens with microbial antagonists naturally present on fruit surfaces could be helpful against postharvest diseases. The present study aimed to select native yeasts isolated from fermentation microenvironments and the surface of refrigerated grapes for their use in the biological control of P. expansum on table grapes stored in cold rooms. Non-pathogenic and pathogenic Penicillium species were isolated, and the four most aggressive pathogen isolates were identified as Penicillium expansum. Twenty yeast isolates identified as Aureobasidium pullulans, Cryptococcus magnus, Metschnikowia pulcherrima and Rhodotorula glutinis presented positive antagonistic activity against Penicillium expansum; they controlled the development of at least one of the fungi, significantly reducing the disease incidence. The results showed that three antagonistic yeasts (M. pulcherrima 22, 36 and 43) reduced the disease incidence and severity of all 4 P. expansum isolates. It was also found that the fruit surface is not the only source for isolation of biological control agents. Microenvironments with different stress conditions could be a promising source to isolate antagonistic microorganisms.
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