Strategies to take care of the performance of the blueberry crop in the face of logistical difficulties
The shortage of reefer containers after the port logistics disorder caused by the pandemic, not only raised transport costs, but also extended the duration of the journey of fresh fruit from 48 days (in the best case) to 60 days for Chile; a period close to, if not greater than, the postharvest life of the blueberry. The latest projections estimate that the problem will last until at least the end of 2022.
Given the increase in transportation time, it becomes essential to review the blueberry production chain to prevent the decrease in the profitability of crops due to the loss of quality and condition of the exported fruit.
Bruno Defilippi, doctor and agronomist, participated with the theme "How to optimize post-harvest technologies in the face of the greatest logistical challenges" at the International Seminar on Blueberries Trujillo Peru 2022, invited by the organizing company Blueberries Consulting.
For the researcher and director of the La Platina Center of the Agricultural Research Institute (INIA), the best post-harvest strategy to face this challenging scenario is divided into three parts, the most important being the use of cold, followed by complementary technologies such as modified or controlled atmosphere, and finally support technologies, such as microperforated bags, the use of sulfur dioxide, ozone, fungicides, among other measures. All these technologies are designed to reduce the metabolism of the fruit, and therefore delay its ripening.
That is why Defilippi was emphatic during his presentation in pointing out that the use of post-harvest technology has little or no effect on the life of the blueberry if the berry is harvested with an inadequate degree of maturity. To choose the optimal time to harvest, he recommends using a parameter based on the pulp of the berry, called a pulp-based harvest index, to avoid investment in technology that becomes useless and the increased risk of rot during the trip.
After choosing the ideal time to harvest the blueberry, the focus should be on the times
“Where the exporter and the Peruvian producer can do a lot is by optimizing the moment between harvest and consolidation. What does that mean? That when facing a harvest, do everything possible to arrive as soon as possible to a container where they implement the technology. Because once the fruit goes into the container, the business no longer depends on them," explained the agronomist in an interview with BlueberriesTV.
In addition to moving the fruit quickly, the process must be carried out properly, ensuring harvest and transfer times, adequate storage places, the use of optimal vehicles for transporting the fruit from the storage, to the pre-cold storage, and the containers.
In this regard, Defilippi stated: “You should take advantage of what they have in Peru; a very good cold infrastructure, and well managing the entire stage associated with temperatures from the farm to cooling. Take advantage of the short times they have between production and the process. There are countries that take up to 48 hours. Here, they have the facility to cool down in six or eight hours. And then use the technology that is available to them in the right way.”
“If I am going to use a controlled atmosphere, with the appropriate gas levels, and with the operability that we know; if I am going to use a bag, according to the available materials and the handling and temperature considerations. But there is no new technology, which is good because they do not require investment, they just use what they have well, which is enough, ”he added.
Even if the conditions for transporting fresh fruit prior to the pandemic return, if necessary, investment in technology is justified for Defilippi: "Peru is still in a stage of expansion of the crop. As has been mentioned, they have a variety rotation, they expand the cultivation area. The investment is justifiable because more fruit will require more installed capacity."
During his career, Bruno Defilippi has dedicated himself to blueberry post-harvest research, discovering how fundamental pre-harvest care is to prolong the quality of the fruit after it is obtained from the plant. Blueberry nutrition and irrigation are essential to build a firm fruit that arrives in optimal conditions at post-harvest, and to which technology can be useful to maintain its quality and condition until the destination market.
Defilippi also warned: “Here (Trujillo) is an area that, although it has a permanent average temperature, a lot of dew falls, they have fruit that gets very wet in some pre-harvest situations. This has to be accompanied by a good phytopathological program to control fungi, so that they have to do the least in post-harvest."
Finally, the expert closed both the interview and his presentation with the same reflection. The key to face this scenario is the care of the fruit in pre-harvest, its timely harvest, the reduction of times in the entire production chain, and the permanent search or monitoring of genetic varieties that give a greater potential for post-harvest life.
The Blueberry World Tour will continue in 2023, where the main producing countries of the berry will be visited. Soon, Blueberries Consulting will celebrate the International Blueberry Month, an online event that will take place between August 15 and 30 through the Agricultural Seminars platform.
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