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Patterns of microcracking in apple fruit skin reflect those of the cuticular ridges and of the epidermal cell walls

Knoche, Moritz, Khanal, Bishnu P., Brüggenwirth, Martin, Thapa, Sarada
Planta 2018 v.248 no.2 pp. 293-306
Malus domestica, apples, cell walls, fruits, transpiration
MAIN CONCLUSION: Microcracks in the cuticle of developing apples are aligned with ridges on the inner cuticle surface and are indicative of stress–strain concentrations above the anticlinal cell walls. Microcracks occur in cuticles of most fruits. Growth strains are considered causal. In apples (Malus × domestica), microcracks usually form a mesh pattern similar to that formed by cuticular ridges. Ridge patterns are similar to those of the epidermal cells’ anticlinal walls. Our aim was to identify the mechanistic bases for these pattern similarities. By quantifying ridge depth, ridge width, and the areas enclosed by ridges, we reveal the presence of major and minor ridges. Major ridges enclose two-to-four epidermal cells, minor ridges only one cell. There are similar and overlying patterns of microcracking on the cuticle’s outer surface and of ridges on its inner surface—microcracks generally follow the outlines of the major ridges. In biaxial tensile tests at 20 kPa, strains were low and microcracks shallow, but at > 40 kPa, strains were higher and microcracks deeper. Microcracks traversing the cuticle are usually aligned with the anticlinal walls of the underlying epidermal cells. In general, increased skin strain is associated with increased skin transpiration. Transpiration increases are reversible for low strains but irreversible for high strains. The alignment of cuticular microcracks with the major ridges, and these with the anticlinal cell walls, indicates associated stress/strain concentrations.