Location
Cucurbits: Identifying pre-harvest, harvest and post-harvest management practices capable of reducing losses of pumpkins during storage

Research

FV 439 - Cucurbits: Identifying pre-harvest, harvest and post-harvest management practices capable of reducing losses of pumpkins during storage

Start Date: 
01/10/2014
Completion Date: 
28/02/2017
Project Leader: 
Dr Debbie Rees, NRI, University of Greenwich
Code: 
FV 439

Industry representative: David Murfitt, Oakley Farm

HDC project cost: £113,144

 
The UK market for decorative (carving) pumpkins, currently estimated at £14-15M per year, is growing at a rate of 20% annually, and the market for culinary (edible) pumpkins is growing at an even faster rate from a much lower sales base. The levels of loss are estimated to be 15-20% of initially harvested crop, equating to an annual loss of £2-3M. This project seeks to identify and test practices to reduce these losses. This loss is not generally accounted for by growers as at the point of packing orders are going out so quickly that waste is rapidly binned up and removed or thrown to one side. The waste can vary considerably season to season and farm to farm by variety but no work has previously been done to understand what is actually causing this waste. At the time the fruit is discarded it has had a full allocation of costs to it so is a missed sales opportunity. If a fruit with a breakdown issue in it is not discovered by the packing teams it can then go into the Supply chain resulting in rejected loads at depots which can be costly as retailer may reject and may lead to final customer dissatisfaction.
There is currently very little information on the relative importance of different causes of loss and the impact of pre-harvest, harvest and post-harvest management practices on these losses. This project will work with UK growers to understand the current situation through detailed and structured observations on-farm. Recommendations provided to and practices used by growers in the USA will be reviewed, both through the literature and by direct consultation. By studying a range of decorative and culinary varieties, the characteristics associated with good storage potential will be identified. Information obtained in the first season will be used to select (in discussion with HDC) potential improvements in practices to be tested in focused trials during the second year of the project. These trials will be taken into an additional season depending on approval by HDC.
 
Aims:
To identify pre-harvest, harvest and post-harvest management practices capable of reducing losses of both edible and carving pumpkins during storage
 
Objectives:
Year 1
1. To collate and disseminate information on management of the pumpkin crop in the US, and associated research relevant to the UK industry.
2. To determine and rank the main forms of post-harvest loss (Tissue breakdown, latent infection, post-harvest infection, harvest maturity) currently affecting pumpkins in the UK.
3. To determine and rank the key factors affecting the storage potential of pumpkins in the UK (harvest maturity, mineral nutrition, harvesting/post-harvest practices, storage environment/practices.)
All years
4. To determine the varietal characteristics that affect storage potential (including size, skin thickness, pericarp thickness, dry matter content)
Year 2 onwards
5. To identify and test pre-harvest management practices to improve storage potential.
6. To identify and test harvest/post-harvest management practices to improve storability, including the identification of maturity indicators to predict storage potential at harvest.