The ACIAR-PCAARRD Horticulture Program: Improving Postharvest Management thru R&D and Capacity Building

A project targets to improve postharvest management of fruits and vegetables in selected areas in Visayas and Mindanao. The project is funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and co-monitored by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD).

 Titled, “Improved postharvest management of fruit and vegetables in the southern Philippines and Australia,” the project was launched in August 2013 and is being implemented by the Visayas State University (VSU) and the University of the Philippines (UP) Mindanao. 

Postharvest losses include reduction in quantity (such as physical weight loss) and quality (such as sensory properties, nutritional quality, caloric value, and consumer acceptability) of crops after harvest, before reaching the consumers.

The project aims to reduce losses in volume and maintain quality of fruits and vegetables after harvest while developing facilities and skills to advance postharvest management in the southern Philippines. 

Studies conducted include exploring the effects of harvest time, delay in destemming, and desapping treatment on latex volume and fruit quality of ‘Carabao’ mango; identifying the effects of chitosan coating on postharvest quality of sweet pepper; improving the shelf life of tomato using washing agents; and breaking the dormancy of potato.

Sixty-six farmers and vegetable supply chain members were also trained by the project team in Marilog, Mindanao. The course focused on postharvest handling of vegetables including harvest procedures, trimming and cleaning, grading, packaging, and transporting, along with an overview of factors that affect crop quality before harvest.

Through the project, postharvest laboratories were established and lab equipment for research and training were provided to UP Mindanao and VSU. Enhanced capacity in the form of facilities and improved skills paved the way for the development of best practice guides and defect charts on vegetables (ampalaya, cabbage, tomato, and eggplant) and fruits (pomelo and mango). These materials, which are already accessible to farmers, will also be translated to Bisaya.

Improved capacity through the project, in terms of equipment and facility, includes calculation of respiration rate of different fresh products; analysis of color, internal quality, and physico-chemical attributes (pH, sugars, chlorophyll) of fruit and vegetables; measurement of changes in texture and firmness; assessment of effect of different storage environments (refrigerated, evaporatively cooled, and ambient) on quality and storage life; measurement of internal and external temperature and humidity; and development of photographic scales for quality assessment, grading, and extension to growers.

Together with nine others, the project is part of the “ACIAR-PCAARRD Horticulture Program on Fruits and Vegetables Phase 2,” which aims to improve the livelihoods of farmers and food security in the southern Philippines and Australia. The Postharvest project is expected to be completed by 2019.