A Cork Cell Wall Approach to Swelling and Boiling with ESEM Technology

Poeiras, A.P.; Vogel, C.; Günther, B.; Camilo-Alves, C.; Surový, P.; Silva, M.E.; de Almeida Ribeiro, N. A Cork Cell Wall Approach to Swelling and Boiling with ESEM Technology. Forests 2022, 13, 623. https://doi.org/10.3390/f13040623

The bark of cork oak (Quercus suber L.) is mostly used for cork stopper production; when bark undergoes a series of industrial procedures, boiling usually leads to changes in the characteristics of its tissue. Trees are traditionally grown under natural conditions; however, irrigation is now being used in plantations. This permanent water availability affects cork oak development, while its effects on industrial procedures are unknown. This study provides the first insight into the behaviour of the cell walls of cork during the process of swelling and boiling when trees have been grown under irrigation, that is, subject to a specific water regime. Cork tissue is analysed using environmental and scanning electron microscopy under three regimes: raw conditions, following immersion in water, and after boiling. Additionally, the radial expansion of samples is determined. The results show greater cell wall expansion in cork from the irrigated site than in cork from the traditional rainfed plot when hydrated for 24 h. After boiling, the cell walls of the cork from the rainfed site are thinner than in the raw stage, which is in contrast to the irrigated cork. This study suggests that irrigation during cork oak growth produces a higher capacity for adsorption, increasing cell wall thickness from the raw stage to the boiling stage.

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