, Volume 250, Issue 4, pp 1293–1305 | Cite as

Softening at the onset of grape ripening alters fruit rheological properties and decreases splitting resistance

  • Ben-Min Chang
  • Yun Zhang
  • Markus KellerEmail author
Original Article


Main conclusion

Applying principles of shell theory, we found that grape berries rapidly change their behavior from thick-walled spheres to pressurized thin-walled spheres and become susceptible to splitting during berry softening.


Knowledge of the rheological properties of the skin of berry fruits is needed to make decisions concerning berry splitting prevention. However, how these properties and splitting resistance respond to varietal differences and developmental changes is poorly understood. In a customized injection test, pressurized water was injected into the berries of four grape varieties until they split. In a compression test, the deformation of berries in response to berry softening or dehydration was measured. Shell theory was applied to estimate how the internal pressure translates to tensile stress on the skin. The results suggested that berry softening at the onset of ripening drastically alters berry rheological properties; berries rapidly changed from brittle to ductile materials. The skin became the major stress-bearing structure during berry softening and became vulnerable to tensile stress, which was associated with a rapid decline in splitting resistance. The rate of decline and the absolute extent of the skin’s ability to bear stress varied by variety. Dehydration of overripe or water-stressed berries did not alter the skin properties but reduced the risk of berry splitting. These results indicate that the vulnerability to berry splitting is closely related to developmentally regulated changes in fruit rheological properties and water relations.


Fracture mechanics Fruit ripening Shell theory Tensile stress Water balance 



Applied stress


Elastic modulus


Compressive strain


Strain at splitting


Offset yield point


Internal pressure


Interface pressure


Offset yield strength at 0.2% strain


Splitting resistance


Critical shell tension


Injected water volume



This work was supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch project 1000186, the Chateau Ste. Michelle Distinguished Professorship, and the Graduate School of Washington State University. We thank Lynn Mills and Alan Kawakami for technical assistance.

Supplementary material

425_2019_3226_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (52 kb)
Supplementary material 1 Radius measurements on a grape berry in a perspective view, b front view, and c side view. The width is 2ra, the depth is 2rb, and the height is 2rc (PDF 52 kb)
425_2019_3226_MOESM2_ESM.docx (23 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 23 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Horticulture, Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension CenterWashington State UniversityProsserUSA
  2. 2.Ste. Michelle Wine EstatesProsserUSA

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