Post-harvest Operations and Value Chain in Horticulture

By Ishfaq Hussain, Mujahid Ali, Shahla Rashid

(Horticulture, College of Agriculture, UOS)

Every year about 35 percent horticulture produce is going waste after harvest due to poor storage conditions and poor value chain. Post-harvest management/management is a set of post-harvest practices or after production management practices in horticulture to save our horticulture produce. The product can be used with quality standards established for fresh and processed purposes. Post-harvest practices include the control and management of variables such as relative humidity and humidity. The technique of post-harvest handling can be started from collection to the consumer. It has direct applications for post-harvest handling in the establishment of storage and transport conditions. Post-harvest handling increases the shelf life of vegetables, fruits, and other all agricultural products. It is governing to post-harvest conservation techniques, such as gaseous storage (CA storage), wax coating (edible coating) and cold storage. Another example is the use of ethylene ripening of the climacteric fruits for example mango etc. In post-harvest, freshly harvested food crops can be expressed as small-scale isolated systems. Post-harvest research objective is to learn the quality of these “systems” (small-scale system) that impact post-harvest techniques. In the production of high-quality fresh produce, post-harvest treatment is the final step. These handling practices have a large effect on the quality of vegetables, fruits, and their shelf life. It is familiar that some cultivars have a longer shelf life than others due to this handling management

    Additionally, environmental factors such as temperature, frost, soil type and rainfall at harvesting stage can have a bad/negative effect on the quality and shelf life of storage. Harvesting must be performed during the coolest time of the day, which is usually done early in the morning or at night time, and the products must be stored in the shade on the field/farm. The product can be handled gently. The product must be conserved in such a way that as much as possible from stains, skin cuts, cavities, bruises, and other degradations. Bruising and mechanical damage not only influence the appearance but also provide an approach to disintegrating organisms. It must be taken care that bruising and other injuries can’t reduce the value and change the quality of the product during collection.

    Good trainers and managers train their workers/collectors to select the fruit at the proper time of maturity with maximal/supreme attention.  This is the first step in the value chain. It is useful to minimize the amount of hard physical work as much as possible required in the collection of vegetables and fruits. In later years “cherry pickers” have been introduced for horticultural crops such as celery or lettuce, transporters. They increased the speed of the crop and helped the collectors to devote more energy to care the product in other management. Tools which are used for harvesting depends on the type of vegetables or fruits, different tools are used for collection of products. Commonly the tools used to collect vegetables and fruits are scissors and knives or pruning shears for collection. When fruits or vegetables are difficult to catch, such as avocados or mangoes to prevent the fruits from putting a material around the tree. Shoulder bags can be used for fruit collection, such as avocados and citrus fruits. These shoulder bags are easy to transport and leave both hands free. Commercial producers use bulk containers with a capacity of 250-500 kg in which apple and cabbage crops are placed and are sent further to packers for their classification, washing, waxing, and packaging, storage, etc.    The operations of the packaging machine are important for minimizing mechanical damage, avoiding bruises and rough handling during the various stages of packaging operations. Secondly, packaging operations must be performed in the area where the tone is available. The shade can be created using locally available materials, such as plastic sheets, woven mats, shaded shades or a fabric hanging on temporary piles. Only the shadow can reduce the temperature of the air surrounding the product by 8-17°C.

Post-harvesting includes cleaning, washing, sorting, classification, disinfection, drying, packaging, and storage. They eliminate unwanted elements and improve the appearance of the product. The operations of the packing department have the following steps.

   The first phase of management is known as dumping. It must be done carefully, with both wet and dry spills. When using the dry jet, padded or inclined ramps or moving conveyor belts can reduce injuries. Wet pouring can reduce bruises and abrasions by using moving water with 100-150 ppm of chlorine to transport delicate products. Dry casting is carried out with soft brushes fixed on inclined ramps or mobile conveyor belts. It will help to eliminate dust and dirt from the fruit. If the specific density of the product, like the apple, is lower than that of water, the product will float. For some products, such as pears, the salts (such as sodium silicate or sodium sulfate) must be added to the water to increase its specific density and ensure the flotation of the fruit.

    Steel drums can be used to create a simple sink. The drums are cut in half with drain holes and all metal edges are covered with a plastic or rubber tube. Therefore, the drums are placed on a slanted wooden table. Thiabendazole 500-750 ppm is used for washing.

    Fumigation is used to control post-harvesting diseases of grapes. This is achieved by placing the fruit boxes in a gaseous room and introducing the gas of a cylinder into a considerable concentration. The main use of SO2 is to control Botrytis Cinerea. Fumigation with SO2 is also used to prevent discoloration of the litchi skin. The waxing device shown here is designed to be used after a feeling of dry brushes on a conveyor line. For this purpose, fruit edible wax is used. The size of the product is optional, but it may be worth it if certain sizes receive a higher price than others. Operators must be trained to select the desired size.

    The package consists of placing the product inside a container together with the packaging materials to prevent movement and softening of the product, such as plastic trays or printed pastes, inserts, padded bearings, etc. Corrugated cardboard boxes, plastic boxes, and wooden boxes are used to package the product. The marketable life of most fresh vegetables can be extended with adequate conservation in an environment that maintains the quality of the product. The desired environment must be achieved in installations where air circulation, temperature, relative humidity and, sometimes, the composition of the atmosphere must be controlled. Warehouses can be grouped according to those that require refrigeration and those that do not require it. The deterioration reactions of fruit and vegetables are also caused by storage conditions. During the refrigeration of fruits and vegetables, too low temperatures can cause injuries. High temperatures can soften tissues and promote bacterial diseases. The damage that micro-organisms inflict on fresh fruit and vegetables is mainly due to the physical loss of edible matter, which may be partial or total. Now a day, cold atmospheric containers are available for export horticultural produce to distant markets. Modified atmospheric packaging is available for small quantity storage. Keeping in view above mentioned techniques we can safe horticultural commodities.

Mujahid Ali

I am a PhD scholar in Institute of Horticultural Sciences, UAF and Visiting Lecturer in Horticulture Department in University of Sargodha.

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