The impact of wounding and postharvest storage conditions on retention of soluble protein in sugar beet leaves

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Abstract: Sugar beet leaves can be a viable and economically interesting source of high-quality protein for the food industry. We investigated how storage conditions and leaf wounding at harvest affect the content and quality of the soluble protein. After collection, leaves were either stored intact or shredded to mimic wounding induced by commercial leaf harvesters. Leaf material was stored in small volumes at different temperatures to assess leaf physiology or in larger volumes to assess temperature development at different locations in the bins. Protein degradation was more pronounced at higher storage temperatures. Wounding accelerated the degradation of soluble protein at all temperatures. Both wounding and storage at higher temperatures greatly stimulated respiration activity and heat production. At temperatures below 5°C, ribulose-1,5-biphosphate carboxylase oxygenase (RuBisCO) in intact leaves was preserved for up to 3 weeks. At temperatures of 30–40°C, RuBisCO degradation occurred within 48 h. Degradation was more pronounced in shredded leaves. In 0.8-m3 storage bins at ambient temperature, core temperatures rapidly increased, up to 25°C in intact leaves and up to 45°C in shredded leaves within 2–3 days. Immediate storage at 5°C greatly suppressed the temperature increase in intact but not in shredded leaves. The indirect effect of excessive wounding, that is, heat production, is discussed as the pivotal factor responsible for increased degradation of protein. For optimal retention of soluble protein levels and quality in harvested sugar beet leaves, it is advised to minimize wounding and to store the material at temperatures around −5°C. Practical Application: To preserve the soluble protein content and quality for at least 3 weeks, sugar beet leaves should be harvested with minimal wounding and stored at temperatures between 1 and 5°C. When aiming to store minimally wounded leaves in larger volumes, it must be ensured that the product temperature in the core of the biomass meets the temperature criterium or the cooling strategy must be adjusted. The principles of minimal wounding and low temperature storage are transferable to other leafy crops that are harvested for food protein.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1580-1594
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Food Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2023


  • protein
  • respiration
  • rubisco
  • storage temperature
  • sugar beet leaves
  • wounding


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