Reducing Bell Pepper Bruising during Postharvest Handling

in HortTechnology
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  • 1 USDA-ARS.
  • | 2 Agricultural Engineering Department, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824.

The tender skin of bell peppers (Capsicum annuum L.) 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 peppers. These mechanical injuries include abrasions, cuts, punctures, and bruises, which affect the market grade and reduce pepper quality and subsequent life. Previous research on handling fresh vegetables and fruits has shown that the instrumented sphere (IS) is a tool that can help identify potentially damaging impacts during harvest and postharvest handling operations. For the study reported, the IS was used to evaluate the damage potential for peppers being hand harvested, and for peppers on a packing line. Studies in the field attempted to duplicate how pickers harvest peppers into pails and then empty them into empty wooden pallet bins. For the packing line evaluated, the diverging roll-sizer had the greatest potential for damage. Adding cushioning to hard surfaces and removing the metal support from under the cross-conveyor would help to reduce pepper damage. Cushioned ramps, and hanging flaps or curtains should be used to help reduce acceleration and drop height between pieces of equipment. All locations should be cushioned where peppers impact a hard surface, and drop height should be limited to 3 inches (8 cm) on a hard surface and 8 inches (20 cm) on a cushioned surface. The speed of all components in the system should be checked and adjusted to achieve full line flow of peppers without causing bruising. Workers must receive instruction on the significance of bruising during the harvest and postharvest operations.

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