Postharvest Technology of Horticultural Crops - An Overview from Farm to Fork
Temperature management is the most effective tool for maintaining quality and safety and for extending the postharvest- life of fresh horticultural commodities. It begins with the rapid removal of field heat by initial cooling and continues throughout the cold chain (refrigerated transportation, cold storage at wholesale distribution centers, refrigerated retail display, and cold storage at home). Management of relative humidity along with temperature is essential in reducing water loss. The following technological procedures are used commercially as supplements to temperature and relative humidity management: Treatments applied to commodities include curing of certain root, bulb, and tuber vegetables; cleaning followed by removal of excess surface moisture; sorting to eliminate defects; waxing and other surface coatings, including film wrapping; heat treatments (hot water or air, vapor heat); treatment with special chemical treatments (sprout inhibitors, scald inhibitors, calcium, growth regulators, ethylene-action inhibitors, such as 1- methylcyclopropene, postharvest fungicides); fumigation or irradiation for insect control; and ethylene treatment (de-greening citrus, ripening climacteric fruits). Treatments to manipulate the environment include packaging, control of air movement and circulation, control of air exchange or ventilation, exclusion or removal of ethylene, controlled or modified atmospheres, and effective water disinfection and other sanitation procedures to minimize microbial contamination and assure food safety. Strategies for increasing food security by reducing postharvest losses and waste include use of cultivars with longer postharvest life, use of an integrated crop management system that maximizes yield and quality, and use of proper harvesting and postharvest handling procedures to maintain quality and safety of horticultural crops and their products.