Identifying and sharing postharvest best practice on-farm and online
This project has compiled and communicated the latest in postharvest technology for vegetables. Information has been collated from the scientific literature, books and reports. In addition, trials were conducted where information was lacking or suspected to be outdated. These focused on measuring storage life of different vegetables at a range of temperatures, and measuring the rate of weight loss as affected by temperature and relative humidity.
Trials have demonstrated that it may not always be necessary to cool product to the ‘optimum’ temperature to achieve the quality and shelf life required for transport and retail. For example, although broccoli is ‘optimally’ stored at 0°C, storage at 2°C or even 4°C will keep it in excellent condition for at least 3 weeks, ample for normal domestic supply chains.
Another significant finding was that some chilling sensitive products, such as capsicums, eggplant and zucchini, can be stored for several days or even longer at low temperature before damage occurs. In the case of red and green capsicums, storage life was longest at 2°C and 4°C respectively; it took longer for the development of chilling injury to reduce quality than the rots which inevitably develop at higher – widely recommended – temperatures of 7°C or more.
The project has therefore demonstrated a strong demand within vegetable industry supply chains for information and training in postharvest management. This is an area which has had less attention in recent years, but is clearly critical in terms of reducing waste, avoiding unnecessary costs and meeting consumer demands. It is recommended that some postharvest training and extension activities should continue. These could take the form of short courses, an annual Masterclass, or even a training package developed for retailers.