Modernization in post harvest management of apples

Fruit culture is an important industry in the economy of Jammu and Kashmir. The industry earns revenue of more than 7000 crores annually and generates employment for every eighth person directly or indirectly. The total production of apples in Jammu and Kashmir is approximately 19 lac MT from an area of 133102 Hectares. Post harvest aspect is a neglected story of fruit culture in our state. There is lack of infrastructural facilities like road connectivity, grading, packing, storage, transportation and processing facilities in Jammu and Kashmir on account of which the perishables/horticulture produce loses its prime quality attributes even before reaching terminal markets/ consumers. On account of lack of scientific storage facilities in the Kashmir, growers are forced to flood the fruit mandis with the produce giving them psychological relief of completing their final activity of dispatch, but repent when they receive the sales accounts which are below their expectations. Apple is the predominant horticultural commodity stored under CA conditions – Controlled Atmosphere Conditions. The objective of CA storage is to lower oxygen and increase carbon dioxide concentrations to levels that will maintain fruit quality by decreasing respiratory metabolism and reducing ethylene production and action, but not to the levels that induce fermentation or other damaging events. Out of the total produce 30-38% is retained till June to regulate the market. Even though at present Kashmir is lacking sufficient number of controlled atmosphere storage facility but the good news is that people are investing in this field and a good number of controlled atmosphere storages are coming up in the Kashmir valley. If in the first phase Kashmir develops the controlled atmosphere storage facility for A grade apples which is approximately 40-45 % of apple production we need controlled atmosphere storage facility for 8 lac metric tons. Presently Kashmir has scientific controlled atmosphere storage facility for storing approximately 1.5 lac MT of apples which is less than 20% of the requirement. Thus presently there is the dearth of 6.5 lakh MT capacity CA storages. In the coming years not only the total production of apples is going to increase but the percentage of A-Grade apples is also going to increase because farmers are shifting from traditional orchards to High density system. It is important to mention here that all the CA store owners should randomly conduct Starch Iodine test before loading the fruit in controlled atmosphere storages. Ideal starch iodine rating should be 2.5 to 3.0 on 6 point scale and it should never be more than 3.0. For grade B apples one needs to have refrigerated storage facility so that they retain maximum quality till they reach the customer. Moreover, even at the retail stage we should have a refrigerated system so that the quality of the apple is not only preserved till it is delivered to the retail point of sale but rather till it reaches its end consumer.

Plate A is the scale with which the apple after cutting cross sectionally and dipped in iodine solution is compared. Plate B indicates the right harvest stage for CA storage while as plate C is not fit for CA storage and should be supplied to the markets. Here it is important that every CA store owner should train their crew for conducting these tests and allow the right fruit to be stored in the CA stores.

1-MCP is a new tool that has been added to the list of options for extending the shelf life and quality of plant products. 1-MCP which has been classified as plant growth regulator by the US Environmental Agency prevents ethylene effects in a broad range of fruits, vegetables and floriculture crops. The minimum concentration required in apples is 1ppm to block the ethylene action. 1-MCP is a post harvest tool which maintains the quality, does not increase the quality, for that it has to be applied to good quality healthy fruits harvested at proper maturity. Fruits of bad quality will not benefit from 1-MCP. The response of ethylene is initiated by binding of ethylene to the ethylene receptor (ETR) proteins of which there are five similar forms. In the absence of ethylene the ethylene receptors maintain an active conformation by which proteins (CTR 1, Constitute Triple Response protein 1) downstream in the signaling pathway are kept active. Activated CTR1 in turn represses the ethylene signaling. Binding of ethylene to the ethylene receptor proteins inactivates the receptors, thus preventing the action of CTR1. Inactivation of CTR1 lifts the inhibition of ethylene signal transduction, resulting in expression of genes involved in increased respiration, cell wall softening, fruit ripening flower senescence and other ethylene dependent events.

Flavour and aroma Cell wall softening Respiration rate Storage disorders

Treatment with 1-MCP results in reduced respiration rate and ethylene production for almost all cultivars of apples. These responses impact all the quality control parameters of apples which include fruit firmness, titratable acidity, superficial and soft scald, core flush and senescent flesh browning and reduced development of peel greasiness and senescent decay. Studies were conducted at the Sher-e-Kashmir university of agricultural sciences and technology, Shalimar at division of Post harvest Technology (now renamed as Food Science and Technology) from 2005 to 2010 to evaluate the storage response of Red Delicious and Ambri apples to Post Harvest application of 1-MCP. Physiologically mature Red Delicious and Ambri apples were treated with 1- MCP (1ppm) for 24 hours under small scale airtight plastic tent at 14±200C. The studies revealed that under non-refrigerated conditions quality attributes like Fruit firmness, juiciness and TSS and Acidity were retained in treated samples up to 110 days while as to untreated apples retain the same quality parameters up to 30 days, thus the shelf life of treated apples was increased by 80 days. Similarly under refrigerated conditions 1-MCP treated fruits retained maximum quality attributes up to 270 days while as untreated fruits retained quality attributes up to 180 days thus storage life was increased by 90 days. Post cold storage deterioration in 1-MCP treated apples was very slow as compared to untreated fruits. Maximum quality parameters in 1-MCP treated apples were retained up to 20 days of ambient storage (22 ±200C) after refrigerated storage of 270 days while untreated fruits retained quality parameters up to 5-8 days. It is important to mention here that for post controlled atmosphere storage, use of 1-MCP is very important as it prevents deterioration in apples after CA storage when the apple reaches the terminal market and the temperature is very high. The apples which are imported to the Kashmir valley from developed countries have excellent quality which is only because they are treated with 1-MCP after harvesting at proper maturity date. Since our state is known for quality production of apples use of 1-MCP can revolutionize the horticulture industry and raise the income of apple growers by many folds.

As is evident from the above experiments post harvest treatment of apples / fruit produce goes a long way in preservation of the food quality and in such condition would yield greater monetary benefit for the farmer / producers. Even though international attention to the local fruit industry in Kashmir is a news all interested parties would be happy to hear, the Government needs to respond to such interest. At the same time the Government needs to exercise caution in order allow such corporations to set up such facilities. The government in fact needs to be swift in enacting laws to regulate investment from such multinational corporations so that the Kashmir Apple industry is brought upto international standards in a progressive, organic and sustained manner, taking into account the rights and interests of all the parties concerned.

Dr. Mushtaq Ahmad Beigh is Assistant Professor Division of FST-SKUAST-K