655 Role of Postharvest Storage in Meeting World Food Needs

in HortScience
Author: Adel A. Kader1
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  • 1 Department of Pomology, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA

Postharvest losses of horticultural perishables between the production and retail distribution sites are estimated to range from 2% to 23%, depending on the commodity, with an overall average of about 12% of what is shipped from U.S. production areas to domestic and export markets. Estimates of postharvest losses in developing countries are two to three times the U.S. estimates. Losses in dried grains, legumes, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and herbs and spices range from 1% to 10%, depending on their moisture content, temperature and relative humidity of transport and storage facilities, and protection against pathogens and insects. Reduction of these losses can increase food availability to the growing population, decrease the area needed for production, and conserve natural resources. Strategies for loss prevention include use of genotypes that have longer postharvest-life, use of an integrated crop management system that results in good keeping quality of the commodity, and use of the proper postharvest handling system that maintains quality and safety of the products. Biological (internal) causes of deterioration include respiration rate, ethylene production and action, rates of compositional changes, mechanical injuries, water loss, sprouting, physiological disorders, and pathological breakdown. The rate of biological deterioration depends on several environmental (external) factors, including temperature, relative humidity, air velocity, and concentrations of carbon dioxide, ethylene, and oxygen. Socioeconomic factors that contribute to postharvest losses include governmental regulations and policies, inadequate marketing and transportation systems, unavailability of needed tools and equipment, lack of information, and poor maintenance of facilities. Although minimizing postharvest losses of already produced food is more sustainable than increasing production to compensate for these losses, less than 5% of the funding of agricultural research is allocated to postharvest research areas. This situation must be changed to increase the role of postharvest loss reduction in meeting world food needs.

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