This study investigated the potential use of two edible coatings, chitosan (CH) and locust bean gum (LBG), which incorporated chemically characterized water pomegranate peel extract (WPPE) or methanol pomegranate peel extract (MPPE) and the biocontrol agent (BCA) Wickerhamomyces anomalus, to control the growth of Penicillium digitatum and to reduce the postharvest decay of oranges. CH and LBG including pomegranate peel extracts (PPEs) at different concentrations were tested in vitro against P. digitatum to determine their antifungal efficacy; at the same time, the tolerance of viable cells of W. anomalus to increasing concentrations of WPPE and MPPE extracts was assessed. The potential application of selected bioactive coatings was evaluated in vivo on oranges, which had been artificially inoculated with P. digitatum, causal agent of green mold decay. CH incorporating MPPE or WPPE at all concentrations was able to inhibit in vitro P. digitatum, while LBG was active only at the highest MPPE or WPPE concentrations. W. anomalus BS91 was slightly inhibited only by MPPE-modified coatings, while no inhibition was observed by WPPE, which was therefore selected for the in vivo trials on oranges artificially inoculated with P. digitatum. The experimental results proved that the addition of 0.361 g dry WPPE/mL, both to CH and LBG coatings, significantly reduced disease incidence (DI) by 49 and 28% respectively, with respect to the relative controls. Besides the combination CH or LBG þ WPPE, the addition of W. anomalus cells to coatings strengthened the antifungal effect with respect to the relative controls, as demonstrated by the significant reduction of DI (up to 95 and 75% respectively). The findings of the study contribute to the valorization of a value-added industrial byproduct and provide a significant advancement in the development of new food protectant formulations, which benefit from the synergistic effect between biocontrol agents and natural bioactive compounds.
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