You may have noticed that strawberries grown in your garden, or at organic farms, tend to be tastier than the regular supermarket variety. According to a new study, the use of commercial fungicides may be to blame.
Fungicides work by disrupting cellular processes in fungi, inhibiting their growth. Researchers at China Agricultural University wondered if the chemicals might also be negatively affecting the strawberry plants to which they’re applied, keeping the berries from reaching their “full potential.”
Led by Jinling Diao, the scientists grew three groups of Fragaria X ananassa Duch strawberry plants under identical conditions. One group was left untreated as a control, while the other two were treated with either of two commonly used fungicides – boscalid (BOS) and difenoconazole (DIF) – while the berries were still green.
All three groups proceeded to produce berries which were identical in size and color.
That said, berries from the two fungicide-treated groups were found to have lower levels of soluble sugars (such as sucrose) and nutrients (such as vitamin C), plus they had higher levels of not-so-sweet-tasting acids. Additionally, the berries had reduced levels of compounds like esters and terpenes, which produce the distinctive strawberry aroma.
In the case of the plants that had been treated with BOS, lab analysis revealed that the fungicide “had a direct effect on the regulation of genes involved in cellular pathways related to producing sugars, volatile compounds, nutrients and amino acids.”
And not surprisingly, in blind taste tests, volunteers consistently preferred strawberries from the untreated control group.
A paper on the research was recently published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Source: American Chemical Society