Kenyan scientists work to reduce postharvest loss in horticultural crops

David Picha  |  6/15/2018 4:52:13 PM

David H. Picha

Faculty in the LSU AgCenter and Egerton University in Nakuru, Kenya, have initiated a collaborative global outreach and capacity-building program on reducing postharvest loss and improving market quality of horticultural crops. This mutually beneficial effort was recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service as an important component in helping farmers improve the quality and economic value of perishable food products.

The USDA awarded a Scientific Cooperation Research Program grant to David Picha, professor of horticulture in the School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences, to develop a training and outreach program for small farmers and students in Kenya on proper postharvest care for fruit, vegetables and floral products. Lack of knowledge on proper product harvesting, handling, cooling, packing and marketing typically results in perishable product market losses exceeding 30 percent of the entire crop harvest volume. In addition, product quality deterioration due to improper storage and handling practices results in significant nutritional value losses of the food products. Small farmers with limited financial resources and minimal formal education are often the most challenged and in need of further capacity building.

Egerton University professors Antony Kibe and Mariam Mwangi are championing the postharvest horticulture training to their students and growers, building on the laboratory and practical training received at the AgCenter. Appropriate postĀ­harvest technologies and product quality monitoring instrumentation for fruits and vegetables have been demonstrated during multiple laboratory exercises, individualized training sessions, and visits to growing operations. Read more about this project.

A series of reciprocal capacity-building and training activities is occurring under the USDA-funded grant. The information and training materials being developed under this international partnership are also of benefit to Louisiana growers and LSU College of Agriculture students.

David H. Picha is a professor in the School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences.

(This article appears in the spring 2018 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)

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