When the time for harvesting fruit and vegetables approaches, farmers start thinking about interesting opportunities on the market and the prices they can sell their crops later on. In doing so, many of them often neglect the importance of one crucial practice that stands between the harvest and sale of the product—storage. Moreover, for many farmers, post-harvest losses are widely accepted as a normal part of crop management. The question is, should it be that way? After all, storage, as an art of preserving the quality of crops, directly influences final yield and both farmer’s productivity and profitability.
Although certain amounts of post-harvest losses may be acceptable, in some cases, these losses may reach up to 80% of the total crop production. In response to this, every farmer aiming to achieve productive and profitable fruit and vegetable production should be aware of the importance of proper storage facilities. One of them is cooling storage.
What Happens When Fruits and Vegetables Are Harvested
Once the fruit and vegetables are harvested they soon begin to deteriorate. This happens because harvested fruit and vegetables are still living parts of a plant and continue with their respiration process in which they use oxygen, stored nutrients, and water. When the reserves are exhausted, the fruit decays. In other words, the post-harvest life of fruit and vegetables depends on the rate of their respiration process.
Along with that, harvested fruit produces ethylene, known as a plant growth regulator. Ethylene is responsible for speeding up the process of fruit ripening. In post-harvest stage, ethylene is responsible for the change in fruit texture and colour, as well as tissue degradation. Therefore, it’s extremely important to avoid storing ethylene sensitive crops with crops that produce high levels of ethylene.
Cooling Storage Is Actually a Good Idea
The aforementioned problem of fruit decay, due to respiration and ethylene production can be handled by lowering the temperature. To simplify, lower temperatures slow down the rate of crop metabolism, as well as the activity of microorganisms that are also responsible for quality deterioration. Therefore, in order to extend storage life, maintain crop quality and reduce its deterioration, farmers use cooling storage facilities. Cooling storage can be stationary (storage rooms or buildings) or movable (containers) structures that maintain relatively low temperature of stored fruit and vegetables.
Recommended Practices for Managing Cooling Storage Successfully
Post-harvest life of harvested fruit and vegetables will vary depending on crop variety. However, there are a few practices that will improve the efficiency of cooling storage. These include:
1. Adequate handling
While harvesting and preparing the crops for storage, it’s recommended to avoid any potential damages. Furthermore, the crops that are delivered in storage should be clean and free from any fungal or insect pest infections.
2. Preliminary cooling (Pre-cooling)
Since there is a big difference between the temperatures of harvested crops and cooling storage, pre-cooling is an essential practice. Pre-cooling removes the heat energy from crops after they have been harvested. Field heat should be removed as soon as possible, particularly in the case of high perishable crops, such as strawberries.
3. Proper Management of Storage conditions
Each crop has its own storage requirements, regarding the temperature, humidity as well as compatibility with other crops. There is a general rule that fruit and vegetables should never be stored together. Besides that, farmers should avoid overstocking their cooling storage beyond its capacity. The table below shows optimal storage conditions for some fruit and vegetables.
Cooling storage is a relatively good solution for fruit and vegetable farmers who want to meet the expectations of their customers and deliver fresh and quality products. So, if you are a farmer who shares the same passion, take cooling storage into consideration and turn your post-harvest management into a cool farm practice.
- Filip Gerin on July 20, 2021 @ 14:30:38
This post was created by Filip Gerin on July 20, 2021.