Chitosan oligosaccharide (COS), derived through hydrolysis of chitosan, has been proved to be an effective plant immunity elicitor, eco-friendly, and easily soluble in water, and influenced several secondary metabolites content to improve fruit qualities. COS are widely used in agriculture to improve the defense response in plants. The purpose of this study was to investigate the pre-harvest treatment effect of COS on the quality of strawberry (Fragaria
× ananassa cv.qingxiang
). COS was dissolved in distilled water at a concentration of 50 mg·L−1
and sprayed at four different growth stages of strawberry plants, namely seedling stage, before flowering, fruit coloring (the stage of fruit from white to red) and full bloom. Uniform size, shape, color, without any visible damage, and disease-free fruits were harvested for determining the quality. The results showed that the fruit firmness, viscosity, lignin, sugars, protein, total soluble solid, and titratable acidity content increased in COS-treated fruits compared to control. In addition, COS pre-harvest treatment had a positive effect on anthocyanin, total phenol, flavonoid, vitamin C content and DPPH(2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl) scavenging activity of strawberry. Moreover, COS also increased the cell wall composition and regulated gene expression of some important enzymes involved in ethylene compound biosynthesis and cell wall degradation. The finding of this study suggests that pre-harvest application of COS is very useful for improving quality and antioxidant capacity of strawberry.
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