Reducing Bell Pepper Bruising during Postharvest Handling

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  • 1 1USDA-ARS, Agricultural Engineering Dept., East Lansing, MI 48824
  • | 2 2Agricultural Engineering Dept., East Lansing, MI 48824

Green bell pepper is a popular vegetable in the United States. Michigan is the 5th-leading production area, producing 480,000 cwt of green bell peppers in 1994. The tender skin of the green bell pepper covers a crisp, fragile flesh that is easily bruised, cracked, or crushed. During commercial harvest and postharvest handling operations, bell peppers undergo several transfers, each of which has the potential for causing mechanical injury to the pepper fruit. These mechanical injuries include abrasions, cuts, punctures, and bruises. Mechanical injuries and bruises are defects that affect the market grade of the peppers, and may reduce pepper quality and subsequent shipping life. The impacts occurring in a pepper field and on a Michigan packing line were measured using an Instrumented Sphere. Field tests attempted to duplicate how pickers harvest bell peppers into 5-gal pails and empty them into empty wooden tote boxes. Other tests were on an entire packing line. Most bruising on packing lines occurred at the transfers between different pieces of equipment when the peppers fell or were propelled from conveyors onto uncushioned metal plates or rollers. Several transfer points were identified as areas where much of the mechanical damage occurred and improvements were suggested to the packer. Bell peppers were found to bruise on their shoulders; therefore, shoulder bruises may be used as an indicator of injury. The major problems with packing lines were excessive height differences between line components, lack of control of rolling velocity, and lack of cushioning on hard surfaces.

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