Managing fruit for optimum postharvest quality

Apples and pears have a long history of being able to be stored for long periods of time, traditionally in Europe being kept in cool cellars through winter time. Technology and knowledge has evolved over time such that nowadays high quality apples and pears can be enjoyed all year round.

The management, treatment and storage of fruit after harvest are critical factors in the quality of the fruit that is ultimately delivered to consumers. However management of the trees and fruit in the orchard also plays a key role in how well the fruit keeps after it is harvested.

A South Australian delegation joined apple and pear growers and packers from all around Australia in Melbourne on Wed 13th January to learn more about postharvest management of their fruit. Hosted by Apple & Pear Australia Limited (APAL), the Apple and Pear Post-harvest seminar brought together a range of leading researchers and consultants in the field to highlight the latest research findings and management practices, including international experts Dr James Mattheis from the United States Department of Agriculture and Dr Robert Prange, recently retired from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

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Paul James of Lenswood Co-operative and Dr Jim Mattheis, USDA

Keeping the tree in nutritional balance and out of stress and harvesting in the optimum window of maturity were highlighted as key factors in improving the quality and storability of fruit once harvested. Tools for identifying, measuring and picking at the optimum fruit maturity to maximise quality outcomes for different storage lengths were discussed, along with the challenges faced by variations between regions, seasons, varieties and even strains.

A range of different postharvest management options for managing the fruit prior to and during storage were presented. A common theme was that technologies, knowledge and management systems that are available to us today are helping us to continually improve fruit quality after storage; including firmness, flavour and the balance of sugars to acids. A range of new options for reducing storage rots and wastage and how they fit into the suite of existing fungicide tools were also outlined.

Key messages of the knowledge and technologies available today are that being able to

  • measure, control and actively manage low levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide within cool rooms;
  • inhibit ethylene production;
  • and detect physiological changes within the fruit;

all have the capacity to greatly improve the quality outcomes of fruit during storage.

Apple and Pear Growers Association of South Australia CEO, Ms Susie Green said “how we manage apples and pears once they have been picked is critical to ensure that we deliver the best quality fruit possible to consumers. The knowledge and technology presented at the APAL postharvest seminar is exciting for industry, as it provides us with new tools to keep striving for better quality outcomes.”

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APAL director Kevin Sanders, APGASA CEO Susie Green, APAL CEO John Dollison