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Post Harvest Management for Fresh Fruits, Vegetables and Root Crops – A Guide for Farmers
There are two main functions of Post Harvest Management:
As a result the shelf/storage life of the produce is extended.
Estimates of Post Harvest losses from the field to the market in the following types of produce are as follows:
Leafy vegetables - 50 %
Green Peas/Beans - 30-50 %
Fruits - 20-40%
Root Crops - 10-20%
Dried Products - 5-10%
The level of loss is related to the part of the plant the product represents and therefore its life sustaining (physiological) functions that continue after harvest.
Causes of Post Harvest Losses:
The golden rule of Post Harvest Management is- “QUALITY CANNOT BE IMPROVED AFTER HARVEST BUT MAINTAINED”...
Therefore only good quality produce must be prepared for market.
Poor quality produce will have a short Post Harvest life.
However, the quality, condition and the ability to market fresh produce can be greatly improved by the farmer carrying out proper cultural practices.
Proper Post Harvest Management Practices:
Produce must be harvested without any form of damage and under certain conditions in order to maintain its good quality and prevent spoilage.
Factors to consider:
Maturity of the Produce
The maturity speaks to the ideal condition for consumption.
Features used to judge the best quality produce include: shape, colour, texture,
Smell and resonance (sound when tapped).
Widening of segments (breadfruits, soursop), and drying of the aerial part of the plant
(yam, dasheen, onion).
Immature produce has a short post harvest life.
Time of day to reap?
Harvesting Tools and Methods
The use of proper tools will prevent unnecessary injury to the produce being harvested.
It is recommended by RADA that the use of picking poles with bag be employed or climbing and picking by hand to prevent fruits from falling to the ground.
Use of short sharp knives for cutting stems and trimming in the field, is recommended. Outer protective leaves of some types should be left to protect the product through to market.
Root Tubers and Bulbs
These can be pulled out of the ground if the soil is loose, or use of digging sticks used to remove the soil, or a fork being placed far from the root to loosen the soil and lever the tuber up out of the soil.
Selection and Grading
The produce must be sorted and graded based on its market quality and the market source.
They are usually separated into two or three grades.
The best quality is grade one, those with defects is placed in the grade two and the poorest quality placed in grade three.
Grading assists with pricing as grade one produce receives the highest price when compared with grade three.
The quality/grade needed by the market must be determined before sale.
Farm produce are packaged for four main reasons:
However, the type of packaging used can account for 15 to 20 percent of post harvest loss in fresh produce.
Recommended packaging materials are:
The disadvantages in using polypropylene bags to transport leafy vegetables and ripe fruits are:
The product is crushed due to the large amount placed in the bags
The temperature and humidity in the bags increase and so the product begins to spoil
Fresh fruits and vegetables spoil quickly at room temperature (27-33 degrees C), therefore the need to sell them as soon as they are reaped.
They can be stored for longer periods under cold storage conditions but that is expensive.
Some recommended storages practices are:
Palletizing packaged produce results in the surety that good quality produce arrives in the marketplace in good condition.
Proper Post Harvest management practices will therefore result in reduction of food loss and maintenance of quality.
Quality assurance is therefore guaranteed with increased income.
Information produced by the RADA Division of Technology, Training and technical Information.
Further information can be had from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) by calling 1-888-ASK-RADA or by logging on to www.rada.gov.jm.