Foliar urea applications to apple trees increase yeast assimilable nitrogen, amino acids, and flavor volatiles in fruit and hard cider

Brittany S. Cook, Michael G. Brown, Yanxin Lin, Misha T. Kwasniewski, Marlon F. Ac-Pangan, Amanda C. Stewart, Gregory M. Peck

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Volatile compounds are a crucial component of hard apple (Malus ✕domestica Borkh.) cider aroma, flavor, and consequent marketability. Amino acids are used by Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast in the production of volatiles and their precursors. This study hypothesized that foliar applications of nitrogen to apple trees would elevate the concentration of amino acids in the fruit, thus increasing the concentration of sensorially distinguishable aromatic volatiles in cider. In this experiment, urea foliar fertilizer was applied to ‘Ellis Bitter’ and ‘Harry Masters Jersey’ apple trees to create Control (0 applications), Low (3 weekly applications), and High (5 weekly applications) treatments. Total leaf nitrogen increased with the number of foliar urea applications, demonstrating plant uptake. The total fruit yield and fruit efficiency (total harvested fruit mass relative to trunk cross-sectional area) did not differ among treatments within the same cultivar. Similarly, fruit maturity, size, total phenolics, pH, and soluble solids concentration did not differ among treatments. Yeast assimilable nitrogen (YAN) and amino acids in the juice increased with the number of foliar urea applications, as did fermentation rates. Relative to the Control, the High treatment had 130% greater YAN in ‘Ellis Bitter’ and 145% in ‘Harry Masters Jersey’. Over 90% of the YAN in all juice samples was composed of primary amino nitrogen (PAN), and the majority of the PAN among all treatments was asparagine. Ester and fatty acid content in hard ciders increased with the number of urea applications; however, higher alcohols showed a mixed relationship with the number of applications in the cultivar ‘Ellis Bitter’. Aroma and flavor differences among treatments were discernible by triangle discrimination test panelists; however, the specific sensory differences were not easily identifiable with untrained panelists. This study demonstrated that late season foliar urea applications to apples trees can increase juice YAN and aromatic compounds in finished cider.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101136
JournalJournal of Agriculture and Food Research
StatePublished - Jun 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)

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