How to Keep
Produce Kicking After the Clock Starts Ticking
By Rosalie Marion
November 27, 2002
This holiday season, as if a gift
to the fresh fruit and vegetable industry, Agricultural Research Service scientists
have posted a treasure trove of postharvest storage information on the World
Wide Web. The document is an electronic draft of a forthcoming publication that
is three times longer than its predecessor published in 1986. The review draft
is titled, "The Commercial Storage of Fruits, Vegetables, and Florist and
Nursery Stocks," or Agricultural Handbook 66 (AH 66).
The book will aid packers, shippers, distributors, wholesalers and
retailers. Anyone handling such perishable commodities potentially faces losses
if quality is not maintained, according to Kenneth C. Gross, who heads the ARS
Produce Quality and Safety Laboratory (PQSL) in Beltsville, Md.
Fruits and vegetables continue to live after harvest; their sugars, fats and
proteins generate heat as they respire. Only proper storage methods can
lengthen the shelf life during which they can be transported, marketed and
One of the book's major highlights is a listing of 138 "Commodity
Summaries" that include postharvest storage requirements for various
fruits, vegetables, nuts and ornamentals such as cut and potted flowers and
even woody plants like Christmas trees.
The review draft includes information on quality characteristics, maturity
indices, grading, precooling, retail display, ethylene production and
sensitivity, respiration rates, food safety, postharvest pathology and more.
Several fruits and vegetables were added, including araza, sapodilla,
prickly pear cactus fruit, lychee and durian.
The draft version of AH 66 launched this month provides information
collected from approximately 90 authors, compiled into 13 chapters under the
"Postharvest Biology and Technology" heading and four subheadings
under "Commodity Summaries."
While the information in the review draft has been peer-reviewed and edited
for scientific content, the PQSL is making the electronic draft available for
comment before publishing the final version.
The review draft may be accessed by going to:
ARS, the chief scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture, expects to
publish the revised AH 66 in print and electronically in 2004.