The storage life of a crop can be improved by various methods. Some are simple, such as field sanitation. Others require more advanced technologies, such as cool chains.
To maintain product quality throughout the market chain, the whole system, from the farm to the consumer, should be considered. Improvements in one area may be ineffective if other areas of the retail system are not considered.
Several strategies can substantially improve storage life:
Breeding and selection. Some genotypes have a greater ability to retain market quality than others. For example, the storage life of two tetraploid plantain clones was 30-40% shorter than that of the triploid 'Agbagba'. However, improved storage life must be considered relative to other desired characteristics. For example, plantain clones bred for resistance to the fungal disease, black sigatoka, may have a reduced ripening period, and hence shorter storage life, but resistance may be considered to be the more important characteristic.
Improved cultural practices. Cultural practices affect the postharvest quality of a crop. Timely cultivation, moderate use of nitrogen fertilizer, avoidance of drought, and control of fungal infection all increase storage potential. Crops are prone to pests and diseases in the field. Thus, farmers should be aware of crop protection measures.
Appropriate time of harvest. Fruits harvested at the appropriate time give the highest quality. In commercial production of dessert banana, the date of harvest is based on size rather than maturity, because the fruit can be ripened as required by exposure to ethylene. Market standards dictate the size at harvest.
However, plantains are mainly grown on small-scale farms, where sophisticated management practices are not used. The date of harvest depends on market demand, and the financial needs of the farmer. Farmers may harvest fully mature fruit for their own consumption and local markets, and harvest less mature fruit for sale at distant markets.
Improved field storage. After harvesting, fruit should not be exposed to sun, rain, or wind. Collection points for the harvested fruit should be accessible to vehicles for transportation. Collection points should also be shaded. Researchers have reported up to 10 °C difference in temperature between shaded and exposed fruit. Rudimentary grading at this point can also improve overall fruit quality. Farmers should discard diseased, damaged, or over-ripe fruit.
Control of postharvest environment. Ripening can be delayed by manipulating environmental conditions. These environmental conditions affect the physiology of the crop. The three main methods for extending storage life are control of temperature, ventilation, and humidity (see Section 3). Modifying atmospheric composition also affects crop physiology and delays ripening, but it is currently less used (see Section 4).
Treatment of fruit. Chemical coating of fruit, treatment of fruit with gibberellic acid, and treatment of fruit with radiation all extend storage life (see Section 5).
Improved postharvest handling. Improving postharvest handling is the easiest way to extend storage life (see Section 6).
|Objectives, Study materials, Practicals|
|1||Storing plantain and banana|
|2||Improving storage life|
|3||Temperature, humidity and ventilation|
|5||Treatment of fruit|
|6||Improving postharvest handling|
|8||Suggestions for trainers|