New guide offers organic farmers tips for storing produce

Since many organic fruit and vegetable farmers sell their produce shortly after harvest, best practices for long-term storage haven't been a looming concern.

But with organic produce reaping a growing marketplace share, farmers who can keep their crops fresh longer will benefit from more marketing options. But it takes know-how. The new and free 2012 Production Guide for Storage of Organic Fruits and Vegetables, posted online by the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYS IPM), can help.

Authors Christopher Watkins, a Cornell horticulture professor specializing in postharvest science, and Jacqueline Nock, a horticulture research specialist at Cornell, provide the information and advice farmers need to store their crops with the same care they put into growing them.

Growers will learn, for example, that some fruits or vegetables change sugars into starches as they age. Others do the reverse. Some emit ethylene, a natural gas essential for ripening. Others don't. Among those that don't, some might start decaying, yellowing or sprouting from ethylene from a nearby display -- yet others pay it no heed.

Of course, some crops naturally lose freshness far more quickly than others. Yet even among these, how they are cared for after harvest (and even as they grow) has a huge effect on how well they hold up in the storage bin or on the grocer's shelf.

The new manual complements NYS IPM's updated 2012 organic grower guides. NYS IPM promotes least-toxic solutions to pest problems.

The guide was funded in part the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

Mary Woodsen is a science writer with the NYS IPM Program.


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