Improving Post-harvest Handling Practices

Throughout the U.S. estimates of post-harvest losses for fresh fruits are in the range of 30 percent and for vegetables approximately 32 percent when including culling points within the system because of over-ripening and the development of physiological disorders, handling damage, visible decay, or other causes as well as fresh waste by consumers. Such losses can be significantly reduced by proper and efficient handling of the fruit or vegetables on their journey from farm to market. A UGA horticulturist has been developing and adapting harvest, handling and storage technologies to improve fresh produce quality, increase consumption of such products and reduce food waste. The ultimate goal of his program is to improve the understanding of the biology of fruit quality and to further the adoption of harvest and storage technologies that could benefit local industries. For this reason, the Postharvest Physiology Laboratory, located in Tifton, Georgia, has been collaborating with Extension specialists, Extension agents and other scientists as well as interested private parties. The basic achievements for this past year were to ensure that the laboratory has all the needed tools to measure produce quality at harvest and postharvest such as firmness, soluble solids, pH and titratable acidity, as well as quality indicator compounds such as color, content of phenolics and sugars. A number of local industries have already collaborated with this program to tackle issues that are reducing the post-harvest quality of their products. Some of them include preharvest applications that could improve the postharvest quality, while others deal with postharvest treatments that can extend the shelf life of fresh produce. The ultimate goal is to continue offering assistance to local industries in the advancement of existing postharvest systems, to improve their efficiencies and to reduce overall postharvest losses. The horticulturist estimates a 10 to 20 percent reduction in the post-harvest losses is attainable with simple low-cost interventions within the first year. This will be translated in a subsequent increase of their income and will reduce the pressure for increased yields that they face in order to remain profitable.