Toward sustainable postharvest technologies

F.G. Çelikel*, E.J. Woltering, L.J.S. Lukasse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


There are significant effects of preharvest factors on postharvest quality. We are only able to maintain the high quality obtained by proper cultivation and growing techniques. Unfortunately, we lose a significant part of produced horticultural crops including ornamental products after harvest. The lost product has a huge carbon footprint. The most important postharvest factor in maintaining quality and preventing losses of ornamentals is temperature. The cut flowers that are not sensitive to chilling injury should be stored close to 0°C. This, however, requires more energy for cooling and thus needs the use and development of sustainable cooling principles. One obvious solution for storage facilities is the use of solar power. Various systems have been developed to store surplus energy during the daytime in the form of an ice buffer that can be used during the night to keep the product cool. Other smart cooling principles such as the Quest technology developed at Wageningen Food and Biobased Research, runs on reefer containers. These aid in saving energy and lowering the carbon footprint during refrigerated transport. Cut flowers should be transported at low temperatures to keep them fresh from grower to consumer. However, refrigerated trucks use about 25% more fuel than non-refrigerated ones. Shipping containers by sea is a more sustainable alternative to conventional airfreight and overland transport with significantly smaller CO2 emissions per ton per kilometer carried. Eco-friendly treatments such as spray, pulsing, and vase solutions are another important issue in sustainability of flower industry. After harvest, cut flowers are commonly treated with a range of compounds with the aim to improve the storage performance and to prolong the vase life. Eco-friendly and sustainable pulsing and vase solutions such as natural extracts from medicinal plants should be preferred as a biocide in pulsing or vase solutions to maintain the postharvest quality of cut flowers and greens. Plastics are being replaced by biodegradable packaging, ecofriendly renewable and recyclable materials, new heat-sealable, fiber-based materials from sustainably managed or certified forests, and other sustainable coatings. Novel procedures based on temperature treatments under controlled atmospheres (CATT) can replace the use of harmful chemicals in insect disinfection. Finally, advanced control of the distribution chain from grower till consumer can ensure that product losses are minimized, contributing to the sustainability of the value chain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-24
Number of pages6
JournalActa Horticulturae
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


  • biodegradable packaging
  • cooling
  • eco-friendly treatments
  • sea transport
  • temperature


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