Pre harvest factors affecting postharvest quality of fruits and vegetables
a) Related to plants
1.Crops: Quality of the fruit and vegetables are varies from crop to crop. e.g. jackfruit, bael, potato, onion, pumpkin, garlic etc. having good quality in relation to shelf life while apple, mango, cherry, strawberry, tomato, capsicum, okra, brussels sprout, chinese cabbage, carrot, radish attract more to consumers due to their attractive appearance.
2.Cultivars: The quality of seed or plant material is an important factor that controls the quality of the fruit and vegetable produced. Several parameters of quality are controlled genetically.
3. Cultural practices: All cultural practices have direct effect on the final quality of the produce.
4.Planting period: Many plants are very sensitive to environmental conditions and thus quality will not be optimized when crop is produced under adverse conditions. Producing summer plants during the winter or viceversa will not be appropriate, unless protection practices are implemented.
5.Planting density: It affects both the quantity and quality of the produce. High density planting increases competition between plants, reduces light availability, and thus may decrease quantity. Low density planting lead to large size, better colored fruit or vegetable which may have shorter shelf life. Larger fruits are commonly more sensitive to physiological disorders.
6.Irrigation: Irregular watering usually reduces fruit size, increases splitting, physiological disorders, reduces water content in the plant or plant part etc.
7.Fertilization: Poor management of fertilizers will increase physiological disorders due to deficiencies of some minerals or increase of other leading to toxicity. In both cases, quality will be negatively affected. The application of Ca and high fruit Ca concentration resulted in increased firmness, reduced disease incidence, chilling injury, physiological disorders and ripening and improved storaility. Application of excess N element is detrimental in terms of quality attributes.
- Pruning: It reduces the load and increases the growth of fruit and chemical use after harvest.
9.Thinning: This operation reduces the competition between fruits or plants and thus promotes a good balance between the vegetative and fruit parts and improves quality.
10.Protection: Pathogens and insects have a very negative effect on quality. Poor management of plant protection programmes can lead to very poor quality and reduced yield.
b) Related to Environments
1.Temperature: Temperature is the most important environmental factor that affects quality, very low or very high temperature may injure sensitive crops. Temperature has been found to influence fruit shape, size, colour and other quality parameters. Pineapple fruits grown in winter months or in cool growing areas had reduced eating qualities due to lower sugar/acid ratio. Adequate high intensity and quality is important for the formation of some colour. Wind and rain may cause negative effects on some crops.
2.Radiation: Radiation interception by fruit has a marked effect on the quality attributes of fruits. Any factor that reduces radiation interception results in reduced soluble solids, higher acidity and abnormal skin color development. Low light intensity can reduce the firmness of fruits at harvest and during storage. Low light intensity increases postharvest disease incidence.
3.Relative humidity: Relative humidity plays an important role in determining fruit quality. Higher relative humidity reduces water and Calcium movement into the fruit. In contrast, higher relative humidity around the plant increases calcium accumulation into the fruit by reducing leaf evapotranspiration.
c) Related to Chemicals
1.Plant Growth Regulator (PGR): Many hormones and growth regulators are used in agriculture and they can affect quality in different ways. Which include gibberellins, cytokinin, auxins. Application of gibberellins during fruit development increased fruit weight. Cytokinin and auxin have been reported to increase shelf life and reduced fruit splitting in persimmon and citrus, respectively.
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