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maturity Quality COUNTSIndustry testing shows that apple maturity is trending up, creating satisfaction for growers and better taste for consumers. Words Nardia Stacy, executive manager CHRIS Hall, proprietor of Total Quality Assurance Systems (TQAS), has provided Pomewest with an annual milestone report on the results of the maturity testing program for the 2022/2023 season. As you know, this program is in place to improve the quality of WA apples to meet consumers' taste preferences. Pomewest has been supporting this program since 2018, and it is ongoing. The test results are sent to Pomewest weekly and shared with growers, marketers and retailers. Below are the observations and results from the June 2023 Milestone report. In the past year, TQAS has collected 470 samples of apple lines from various agents at Canning Vale Market City, wholesalers and retail outlets, including major chain stores, Spud Sheds, IGAs and other independently owned fruit and vegetable outlets. These areas included both the Perth metro and some regional areas of WA. Digital refractometers were used to measure sugar levels (Brix) and digital pressure meters were used to measure fruit pressures (Kgf ). Starch levels were determined by observing iodine solution staining against the industry’s colour charts for each apple variety. The new season fruit production was monitored from the Perth Hills growing region, starting on February 2, 2023. Unfortunately, the initial delivery of Gala apples to the market failed both the brix and the starch tests. This is in line with previous seasons, with early delivered consignments being noticeably close to the minimum standards required. As the season progressed, Gala consignments were inconsistent in brix levels and some had low starch levels. From wholesale, TQAS collected 174 samples. The analysis of the samples tested showed that: 169, or 97.1 per cent of samples collected, passed the minimum brix specifications; 172, or 98.8 per cent of samples collected, passed the minimum pressure specifications; 90, or 93.8 per cent of 96 starch tests conducted, passed the minimum starch specification; and 10, or 5.8 per cent, failed one or more tests. From retail, 295 samples were collected. The analysis showed that: 294, or 99.7 per cent, of samples collected, passed the minimum brix specifications; 293, or 99.3 per cent of samples collected, passed the minimum pressure specifications; 29, or 93.5 per cent of 31 starch tests conducted, passed the minimum starch specifications; a total of four, or 1.36 per cent, of samples failed one or more tests. Key Performance Indicators The good news for the industry was fruit quality had generally improved compared to previous years, and taste predictors tended to be more acceptable regarding sugar (brix) levels. TQAS has monitored fruit at all points of sale to ensure its quality at retail. Comprehensive testing results show 97 per cent of samples passed all three maturity specifications. This is an increase on previous seasons. As a result of evaluations, only 14 lines were found to be below the minimum standards. Some lines failed more than one component of the standards. Five-Year Trend Over the past five years, there has been a consistent decrease in the percentage of lines failing the three maturity indexes (see table below). This result is in line with the strategic plan of Pomewest to enhance the quality of fruit in Western Australia and ensure consistent quality for consumers. These outcomes are consistent with the current scope and objectives. Further Observations This year TQAS observed mixed maturity within many samples. This was observed more in early season, but was not limited to: • Higher starch levels in Gala varieties related to lower brix levels in early harvested lines • Generally brix levels were lower at wholesale than at retail • There was a significantly higher percentage of fails at wholesale for starch levels • Pressure fails at retail were much lower this period than observed in prior seasons • As observed in the 2021/22 season, all Granny Smith and Pink Lady samples passed all tests at retail. A copy of the full report is available to FFS apple and pear growers. MORE INFORMATION + FULL REPORT Nardia Stacy 0411 138 103, email@example.com.