|Research at UAF - Exploiting Controlled Atmosphere Technology Potential for Extended Storage and Shipping of Fresh Produce to International Market|
Horticultural fresh produce are highly perishable and maintaining quality and shelf life extension is always challenging. Another aspect is the high cost of air freighting of fresh fruits and vegetables to distant high end export markets, which limits marketing opportunities, especially for crops like mangoes. Controlled atmosphere (CA) technology has shown prospect for increasing storage life of fresh produce & their transport by sea/land routes to distant markets. Controlled atmosphere storage is a technique for postharvest storage of fresh fruits and vegetables in an atmosphere that differs substantially from normal air (21%O2, 78% N2 & 0.03% CO2). The CA technology involves the storage of commodities under controlled atmosphere (i.e. storage temperature, relative humidity and gaseous concentration) in a way that the respiration process of fruits and vegetables is kept at minimal, for enhanced storage life. In order to undertake this work on long term basis on different horticultural crops, a CA-infrastructure facility for R & D was developed with funding from PARB entitled “Exploiting Controlled Atmosphere Technology Potential for Extended Storage and Shipping of fresh produce to International markets” and technical assistant of the foreign collaborators (Van Amerongen CA Company, Netherlands) at postharvest lab of the Institute of Horticultural Sciences. Initial trials were made using a mobile CA lab provided by the foreign collaborator, on mango (cv Sufaid Chaunsa), Kinnow mandarin, Chilies and Apples (cv Kala Kulu and Shin Kulu) which are currently being tested in more details. Preliminary studies showed specific beneficial effects of CA storage on presentation quality and nutritional value of fresh produce. Inhibition of Chlorophyll degradation, firmness retention with acceptable palatability (mango), reduction of disorder (scald, core flush) and softening and mealiness (apples), and inhibition of colour development (green chilies). It was observed that CA storage retarded the senescence and associated biochemical and physiological changes, i.e., slowing down rates of respiration, ethylene production, softening and compositional changes and reduces the post storage diseases development.
Horticultural produce due to higher water contents are highly perishable. Low temperature storage can help extend their life to limited extent. With regards to export of fresh produce with large surplus volumes like mangoes, high air freight cost and limited quantity that can be exported by air are the major limitations. Sea freight offers possibility to export bulk quantities at far cheaper cost. However, it takes extended time to sea freight produce to distant international markets. Controlled atmosphere technology can help extend storage/shipping life to overcome above problems. However, response to CA conditions varies with species/varieties and is also influenced by a number of pre and postharvest factors. Therefore, CA conditions for different fruits and vegetables need to be optimized.
The CA lab facility has been designed & developed by world famous company (M/S Van Amerongen, Netherlands). For all the experiments to be conducted in the CA lab, the fruits at proper maturity (determined as per fruit) will be harvested/ sourced from commercial orchard from the respective production area of Mango, Kinnow, Chilies and Apples etc, and transported to the site of experimentation (UAF) in a temperature controlled reefer van with forced air cooling system. Fruits will be placed in the pallistore with prescribed gasses mix at specified temperatures for each commodity. Fruits will be stored for various durations. At each removal the fruit quality parameters such as weight, colour, firmness, disease incidence and biochemical parameters will be evaluated to determine the best combination of gasses, effective for maintaining the quality with extended shelflife of fruits and vegetables.