Gentle picking, fast logistics and the right storage technology are 3 ingredients to prolong the life of any crop. There is an ideal storage environment for every fruit and vegetable.
Plants (like animals or bacteria) are alive. All living things consume oxygen, water and nutrients and convert them into energy for growth. While it may seem that vegetables and fruits, after being harvested, look completely inert, they are not. They interact strongly with the outside world: breathe, emit ethylene, etc.
How to extend the life of the harvested crop? This will help storage in certain conditions.
Breathing and water loss
Fruits and vegetables use oxygen to release the energy needed to build and maintain cellular structure, development, growth and maturation. This process is called breathing. Once the fruit or vegetable is harvested, the nutrient source disappears, but its cells continue to breathe.
Consequently, the faster and more often fruits and vegetables breathe, the sooner plant degradation, loss of nutritional value, overall weight loss, deterioration in taste, decrease in quality and faster spoilage occurs.
Some fruits and vegetables breathe more slowly than others. For example, potatoes and apples are well adapted to withstand long periods of time in cool conditions - they have a very slow respiration rate. Other types of plants, such as lettuce or broccoli, have a very high respiratory rate and need to be sold very quickly, no matter how they are stored.
High respiration also contributes to water loss, which causes fruits and vegetables to lose weight, wither and shrivel.
The easiest way to reduce breathing and water loss is by cooling. You can significantly increase the shelf life of many fruits and vegetables by chilling them quickly, but this is not always the case. For example, some tropical fruits are very sensitive to cold. This means they decompose faster when cooled than at room temperature. Tomatoes, eggplants, and cucumbers are common examples of cold-sensitive vegetables.
Ethylene and maturation
Another factor affecting post-harvest life span is ethylene production. It is a plant growth regulator that is naturally produced by many fruits. Exposure to ethylene causes rapid respiration in some fruits, resulting in faster spoilage. Therefore, fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene should never be stored with those that are sensitive to it.
Spoilage is caused by two reasons: physical degradation and microbial transformation. Physical degradation occurs as the harvested plants naturally age or become damaged.
Microbial transformation occurs when microbes convert nutrients into energy. As they grow, you can see their mass and by-products in the form of hairy mold or slimy sediment. When harvested fruits are physically damaged by bruises, crushing, cuts or excessive moisture, they are especially prone to microbial transformation. The deterioration of one product quickly affects others. Damaged fruits or vegetables cannot be stored for a long time; they must be removed as soon as possible.
The quality of the soil and its mineral composition also greatly affect the shelf life. Decreased minerals and overuse of nitrogen on large commercial farms can produce large fruits, but tend to reduce post-harvest survival and quality. They also often rely on chemicals, waxes, colors and synthetic growth regulators to “maximize” the shelf life of fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, these methods also often minimize the nutritional value of these foods and can be harmful to the health of the end consumer.
Proper storage of crops begins in the field. The more thoroughly the soil is prepared for growing fruits and vegetables, the easier the storage process will be. Good soil quality and a responsible approach extend the life of the crop after harvest.
Agrovent deeply values and respects the goals and objectives of our clients' business. Our competence is not limited to the design of the microclimate. Agrovent specialists have been designing and constructing vegetable and fruit storage facilities for many years to increase the life of your harvest.
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