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New “Organic Storage Guide” Serves New York’s Growing Organic Produce Sector

Contact: Abby Seaman | 315 787 2422 | ajs32@cornell.edu

by Mary Woodsen

The peaches at the farm stand, the pears in the supermarket: they’re still alive—still kicking, as it were. Yet because many organic fruit and vegetable farmers sell their produce shortly after harvest, best practices for long-term storage haven’t been a looming concern.

Now, 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 knowing how—which is where the 2012 Production Guide for Storage of Organic Fruits and Vegetables, comes into play. It is free and newly posted online by the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYS IPM).

Authors Christopher Watkins and Jacqueline Nock’s clear, exhaustive (but not exhausting) manual provides 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 at the merest whiff of 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.

Watkins, a Cornell horticulture professor specializing in postharvest science, and Nock, a horticulture research specialist at Cornell, have written this free guide to complement NYS IPM’s updated 2012 organic grower guides. NYS IPM promotes least-toxic solutions to pest problems. Learn more at nysipm.cornell.edu.

The guide was funded in part by a New York Specialty Crop grant via the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.