Review of international best practice for postharvest management of sweet cherries (CY17000)
What was it all about?
This short project, which ran from late 2017 into 2018, was responsible for reviewing local and international postharvest practices that optimise cherry shelf life, quality and value throughout the supply chain.
The review considered all factors associated with good postharvest practices, ranging from pre-harvest growing conditions and harvest through to handling, packing, storage, cooling and what happens in the cool chain to the retailer and consumer.
Researchers also looked at new and innovative approaches to maintaining quality, such as the use of edible coatings and some innovative pre-harvest management practices that have been shown to increase storage life and fruit quality.
Some top-level notes from the project team…
- The future success of the Australian cherry industry will be driven by the need to consistently deliver high quality fruit to the consumer.
- It is important to take advantage of the growing demand for cherries in nearby export markets.
- Pre-harvest factors determine the quality of harvested fruit, and it is critical to optimise fruit quality at harvest with genetics and orchard management to improve fruit size, firmness and taste.
- Many management factors (such as calcium and GA sprays) regularly employed by growers, have little evidence of effectiveness.
- Harvest and postharvest handling as well as storage are critical components of maintaining and delivering high quality cherry fruit to the consumer. Damage is not always apparent during handling, but shows up during storage in the supply chain.
- The control of postharvest decay needs to be actively managed. While the current use of postharvest fungicides are widely used and effective, there is a need to work towards low residue alternatives to reduce postharvest decay. Less chemical residue could provide a marketing advantage of Australian cherries in export markets.
- The effective management of stem freshness – maintaining the green colour of the stem – while cosmetic, optimises fruit value.
- The cool chain is the most important aspect of cherry postharvest management. Cherries are very perishable and storage or handling at higher than recommended temperatures reduces quality and storage life. It is essential to maintain correct handling and storage temperatures from the orchard to the consumer.
- While the cool chain can be managed on farm and in the cool room, it is important to work with the entire supply chain, including trucking companies and retailers, to ensure the cool chain maintains fruit quality through to the consumer.
- The increased competition from other southern hemisphere competitors, including Chile, into important export markets reinforces the need to improve fruit quality and market differentiation. It is essential that the postharvest handling and presentation of fruit to the consumer is improved.
- If Australian cherries are premium quality, then consumers must feel justified in paying premium prices – for both domestic and international markets.
- Premium packaging can play a key role in maintaining quality as well as market differentiation. It protects cherries against damage, maintains food safety, and assists marketing that maximises returns to the grower and packer.
The team recommended future postharvest R&D to improve the consistency of fruit quality, with details made available to the cherry industry for review.
This project has been funded by Hort Innovation
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