Verticillium wilt, caused by the defoliating pathotype of Verticillium dahliae, is the most devastating soil-borne fungal disease of olive trees, and leads to low yields and high rates of tree mortality in highly susceptible cultivars. The disease is widely distributed throughout the Mediterranean olive-growing region and is one of the major limiting factors of olive oil production. Other than effects on crop yield, little is known about the effect of the disease on the content of volatile compounds and phenolics that are produced during the oil extraction process and determine virgin olive oil (VOO) quality and commercial value. Here, we aim to study the effect of Verticillium wilt of the olive tree on the content of phenolic and volatile compounds related to the sensory properties of VOO. Results showed that synthesis of six and five straight-chain carbon volatile compounds were higher and lower, respectively, in oils extracted from infected trees. Pathogen infection affected volatile compounds known to be contributors to VOO aroma: average content of one of the main positive contributors to VOO aroma, (E)-hex-2-enal, was 38% higher in oils extracted from infected trees, whereas average content of the main unpleasant volatile compound, pent-1-en-3-one, was almost 50% lower. In contrast, there was a clear effect of pathogen infection on the content of compounds responsible for VOO taste, where average content of the main bitterness contributor, oleuropein aglycone, was 18% lower in oil extracted from infected plants, and content of oleocanthal, the main contributor to pungency, was 26% lower. We believe this is the first evidence of the effect of Verticillium wilt infection of olive trees on volatile compounds and phenolics that are responsible of the aroma, taste, and commercial value of VOO.
Landa, B. B., Pérez, A. G., Luaces, P., Montes-Borrego, M., Navas-Cortés, J. A., & Sanz, C. (2019). Insights into the effect of Verticillium dahliae defoliating-pathotype infection on the content of phenolic and volatile compounds related to the sensory properties of virgin olive oil. Frontiers in Plant Science, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2019.00232