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How to Keep Produce Kicking After the Clock Starts Ticking

By Rosalie Marion Bliss
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 consumed.

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.

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