Cheap methods to increase postharvest life of Agri produce
Updated: Oct 9, 2020
What is postharvest life
Postharvest life of an Agri produce is that the time period between the harvesting of the produce and until it comes to the dining table or final use.
Why we need to increase the postharvest life of Agri produces
Once we harvested, Agri produces are subject to the active process called decaying. So unless we increase the postharvest life of them, we will have to consume them as soon as possible before they decay.
But it is not practicable because sometimes we get a yield surplus. We can’t consume the whole lot at the time of harvesting. Also during the out seasons, if we want to consume those products we have to protect them without decay by increasing the postharvest life.
That’s where the need for postharvest technologies comes in.
Aims of Postharvest technologies
The main objectives of postharvest technologies are,
1. To maintain the quality of produce
2. To protect food safety
3. To reduce postharvest losses
By maintaining the quality of products and reducing postharvest losses, we can increase the postharvest shelf life of Agri produces.
How can we increase the postharvest life cheaply
We can identify various types of postharvest handling practices. By doing those handling practices in an optimum way, they will help to increase the postharvest life of produces.
Let’s see what are those postharvest handling practices and how can we do them in a proper way that will help to increase the postharvest life.
The harvesting stage is varying from produce to produce. There are different maturity stages for a product as mature green, half mature, mature, and fully mature. So we have to identify the correct maturity stage of our products that we need to be harvested.
Harvesting at the wrong maturity stage cause postharvest losses such as senescence, decaying, physical damages, reduction of quality, and quantity.
Also, the harvesting tools and methods are other important things to be considered because of the use of proper harvesting tools and methods it can reduce physical damages that happen to produce. So proper harvesting tools and methods help to increase the postharvest life of produces up to some level.
We can avoid mid-day and harvest during early morning and evening when sunlight is not harsh. During mid-day water loss from produce is very high. If we harvest at that stage, the product will become wrinkled and they will not last for a long postharvest period.
That means proper handling practices during harvesting helps to increase the postharvest life at a very low cost without an additional expense.
This practice is done right after the harvesting reduces the excessive field heat in the produce. This excessive field heat cause undesirable effects on the produce. Precooling minimizes microbial activities, metabolic reactions, respiration rate, and ethylene production. So ultimately this helps to reduce ripening rate, water loss, decay, and finally, it increases the postharvest shelf life. For precooling we can do manual hydro cooling (Dipping produce in cold water) and cooling under a tree shade are the best low-cost methods for farmers in India. But hydro cooling is more effective than cooling under a tree shade.
Proper hygiene is another factor that helps to increase the postharvest life of produce. Cleaning is not that much common in India where water is unavailable. But cleaning helps to maintain the hygiene of products while reducing the pest and disease damages. This can also be combined with the precooling. So then the cost will be lower.
Proper handling practices at each stage of postharvest will help to increase the shelf life by reducing physical damages, internal changes, and postharvest losses.
There are some postharvest treatments which help to increase postharvest life such as cold storage, chemical application. But as farmers, we can’t afford them for a large lot at a low cost
4. Sorting and grading
We can separate ethylene sensitive produce and ethylene producing produce while transporting and storing. By separating them we can minimize the ripening rate of ethylene sensitive produce and increase the postharvest life.
Careful packaging is a must to reduce postharvest losses and ultimately it increases the postharvest shelf life. In India, most of the farmers use gunny bags to pack their produce. But it is a very old and damageable method of packaging. Crates, boxes like proper packaging techniques will reduce postharvest losses.
6. Sun drying
This is a special low-cost technique to increase the shelf life of produce by reducing internal water content up to some level. Being a country near to the equator solar radiation is not a limiting factor in India. So we can preserve our products while increasing the shelf life even for several years for some products at a very low cost. And this is one of the easiest methods to increase postharvest life.