The newest crop specialist on the University of Georgia Tifton campus hopes to help Georgia fruit and vegetable farmers extend the shelf life of their produce after harvest.
Angelos Deltsidis joined the Department of Horticulture in UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in September as a postharvest specialist. In his position, Deltsidis will focus his research on the postharvest life of fresh fruits and vegetables, which starts once they are detached from the plant or tree.
“After you cut the fruit from the plant or the tree, that’s when postharvest starts,” Deltsidis said. “The quality at harvest time is usually the best and, from that point forward, it goes downhill. Our job as postharvest specialists is to maintain the quality of fruits and vegetables as much as possible. We can’t improve it, we can only maintain it.”
Georgia is one of the top producers of various fruits and vegetables in the country, including blueberries and onions. According to the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, the farm gate value for blueberries in 2017 was $226.6 million. That same year, onions generated $140.6 million.
Many of the crops that Georgia farmers grow are not sold or eaten right away. They are subsequently stored for weeks, or even months, then shipped to distant markets. Depending on the commodity, horticultural crops can gain in market value with extended storage periods.
Deltsidis’ job is to show how commodities thrive under different storage conditions, temperatures and atmospheres.
“I work mainly in postharvest quality, so let’s take shelf life for example,” Deltsidis said. “How does a particular factor affect shelf life? How do low or high storage temperatures affect the shelf life of a fruit or vegetable? What benefit can controlled or modified atmospheres provide to the crops grown in the region?”
To answer these and other questions for Georgia farmers, Deltsidis will collaborate with scientists on the vegetable team at UGA-Tifton, including UGA Cooperative Extension vegetable specialist Andre da Silva and UGA Extension vegetable pathologist Bhabesh Dutta.
“They’ll grow their crops like they’ve always done and I’ll be adding my postharvest expertise,” Deltsidis said. “I’ll be working on the postharvest quality aspect in some of the experiments that are already under way. When needed, I will grow my own crops for research use as well.”
A native of Greece, Deltsidis came to the U.S. after completing his undergraduate degree. He earned a doctorate from the University of Florida in 2015 and moved to California to work as a postharvest specialist at University of California, Davis.
“I’m glad I come from a state which is very big in horticulture and I’m hoping I can contribute to Georgia’s horticulture success as well. I’m happy to be here and look forward to continuing the successful programs here on the Tifton campus,” Deltsidis said.
For more information about UGA’s horticulture department, see hort.caes.uga.edu.