COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK IN AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS
STATE OF FLORIDA
S COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE. AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICE
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, AND Veg Crop Specials COUNTY AGENT AND
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT Vegetabe Cop SpCiisS HOME DEMONSTRATION WORK
OF AGRICULTURE, COOPERATING CiAINESVtLLE, FLORIDA
V E CG E TA I I A ,N
No. 5 July 20, 1950
Had any growers report that there was a squeeze play in the vegetable game
during the 1949-50 season? The present international situation is, of course, the
bunt rolling down the base line.
Anyway, the preliminary report of the vegetable sub-committee on Agricultural
Production Adjustments says that "While returns for most crops averaged above pro-
duction cost, many individual growers failed to realize production cost on their
crops." The report goes on to say that Feven should growers plant the acreage sug-
gested, it is probable that the margin between prices and cost of production will be
quite small and that inefficient operators vill fail to secure returns adequate to
meet cost of production."
For 1950-51 an increase in acreage was suggested for cantaloupes, cauliflower,
lettuce, and strawberries. Decreased plantings were suggested for snap beans, cab-
bage, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, escarole, peppers, Irish potatoes, fall squash,
and watermelons. The sub-committee recommended that lima bean, sweet corn, green
pea, winter and spring squash and tomato acreages remain about the same as the '49
and '50 season.
AWAY FROM IT ALL--to the same end from another angle.
Growers have been on the receiving end of storms, rain and drought, and hedge-
hopping late frosts during the past season. Need we say more?
Granted there's no use to fight the elements, let's pick up a little information
for them along the lines of a few other factors that go in to make up the results of
any given season...
DISTRIBUTION PROCESSES---seems there's room for improvement.
Believe it or not, estimates have been made that from 30% to 40% of all fresh
produce that leaves the farm is never consumed as food. Human food, that is.
As you well know, there can be many sources of loss, but studies of the retailer
alone indicate that an average of 7% o all his fresh produce purchases end up as
losses. A breakdown of this shows generally that small stores lose the greatest
amount, with a range of up to 15% of fruit and vegetable purchases, and large stores
lose the least, with as little as 3% of produce purchases lost.
Further, distribution through retail outlets of fresh produce is not very well
proportioned, with 3 of the nation's stores selling 75% of its fruit Ci d vegetables.
MR. & MRS. CONSUMER---how they shop.
Surveys fr6m all over the country bring out clearly that the average customer
(and here's an eye-opener) shops
FIRST, for QUALITY.
Second, for convenience.
Third, for price.
Seems to ring a bell on the grower's end of the line, too,
GRADE VS. QUALITY--where's the line?
Ever get cornered to make a definite distinction between 'grade' and 'quality'?
We made a nice try, too, but--
The experts say grade generally is considered to be made up of factors the eye
can determine, such as size, cleanliness, shape, color, and defects. Quality then
is much larger than grade, covering the factors of grade as well as factors that
cannot be seen--juiciness, freedom from toughness, flavor, proper maturity, and food
Grade can change but very little throughout the distribution period, while
quality can change from good to garbage just overnight.
CARE AND HANDLING--from harvest to consumer.
Produce is all living food. It is either trying to reach maturity or is going
the other way. Produce items once dead are no longer fit for human consumption, un-
less some method of preserving the food value has been used.
Losses generally result from (ITehyation, (2) advances from the ideal stage
of maturity, (3) decy, and (4) rough handling.
The first three of these sources of loss can be controlled to a great extent by
the use of artificial conditions--meaning humidity and temperature control.
Humidity controlled at around 90% will prevent much, if any, damage from dehydr
Refrigeration is absolutely necessary for most items, but the refrigeration re-
quirement should be observed closely because many fruits and vegetables will be
injured by low temperatures. As a general rule, crops that can be grown in the
field withoutrdamage from frost keep best at 32 F., while crops that will be in-
jured by frost in the field should not be exposed to temperatures below 420 F. There
are a few exceptions to this rule--sweet corn will be injured by frost in-the field,
but should be kept at 320 F. to prevent sugar loss. There are a few items that will
not even stand temperatures below 520 F. For example, bananas, tomatoes, and sweet
The last cause for loss, rough handling, covers skin breaks, bruises, mashing
and cracking. All of these not ion damage the merchandise directly but give entrance
for decay organisms.
Since produce is living food and subject to deterioration in quality from many
causes, a minimum of time between harvest and consumption is of prime importance.
VEGETABLE MERCHANDISING---Retail training is now available.
Stanley E. Rosenberger, Assistant Vegetable Crops Specialist, Florida Agricul-
tural Extension Service, is working with Florida retailers to improve the care and
handling of fresh produce at the retail level. Points covered in this program
include produce buying, displaying, pricing, and consumer buying habits.
Sufficient work has been done to indicate that when freshness and high quality
are maintained in a well-kept and attractive produce department, consumers buy and
eat more fruit and vegetables than they otherwise would.
If you have a group of retailers expressing an interest in improving their pro-
duce operations, get them in touch with Mr. Rosenberger.
MARKETING FLORIDA'S EARLY IRISH POTATOES
we'vee conceded above that there are many sources of loss in handling produce,
but let's take a look at the status of one or two particular studies in the state.
Dr. R. E. L. Greene, Economist with the Agricultural Experiment Station, con-
ducted a cooperative test with the USDA, growers, shippers, and railroads to get a
more complete knowledge of existing practices in handling potatoes and a better
understanding of where damage occurs--a study which will aid in developing better
methods for preventing losses in this particular crop.
The report indicates that cuts and bruises were by far the major defect in
potatoes from the Hastings and Dade County areas. Further, the amount of defects
in this crop more than doubled between the shipping point and the retail store. Half
or more of the potatoes in the northern retail store contained some type of defect,
the most important of which were cuts and bruises--again.
Among the conclusions and recommendations were 'eliminate defects or losses due
to insects and diseases'--'proper maturity for digging'--'reduce periods of exposure
in field between picking up and hauling to packingshed'--'potatoes should be as cool
as possible when loading for shipment'--'reduce mechanical damage through careful
digging, use of properly designed and padded equipment, running equipment at proper
speeds and by avoiding long drops'--'washing, grading and drying equipment should not
TOMATO SHIPPING TESTS
Going over into the tomato industry, R. K. Showalter and L. H. Halsey of the
Agricultural Experiment Station are conducting cooperative tests with the USDA and
shippers to compare several types of shipping containers for rail and truck movement.
Tests to date show considerable variation in the extent of injured fruit in
each type of container. The researchers say "so much depends on fullness of package
and handling practices, such as care in loading and unloading and promptness in un-
loading and shifting in the load, that it is somewhat difficult to draw conclusions
from a limited number of tests."
In general, mechanical injury and decay during transit and ripening was exten-
sive enough to indicate the need for more careful handling practices.
These losses can no doubt be reduced by proper filling, careful loading, proper
cooling, prompt unloading and the use of smooth or lined containers. It appears
that a lidded, lined container will deliver more pounds of tomatoes free from
mechanical injury than the lug box or open type boxes such as the field-box.
The workers report that "even this is no indication that the fruit which so
arrives will get to Mr. Consumer's taEle. In a sample year's test (fruit picked
mature green) under ripening room conditions decay accounted for around 10% loss,
shrinkage 2-3% loss, and 10i of the fruit failed to ripen."
Again cooperation between the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, industry
and the USDA is yielding valuable results toward delivering quality produce to the
R. K. Showalter, L. H. Halsey, and Dale B. Thompson of the Station illustrate
the importance of temperature in prepackaged products by the following examples:
"Packaged broccoli remained a good green color for 7-13 days when held at 40
F. or below, but turned yellow in 2-3 days- a 700 F, Sweet corn lost sugar content
at the rates of 3.5% at 320, 20.8% at 500, and 59.4% at 860 during the first 2h hours
"Loads of prepackaged sweet corn delivered in New York at temperatures in the
40's were graded as good to very good in quality but those delivered at temperatures
above 50O were inferior to that held at 4O0 or lower."
And, there are other angles--chlorine used in the hydrocooler water did not
completely sterilize the vegetable surfaces but held the microorganism count to a
reasonable minimum. It was found that packages should be perforated for air exchange
to prevent souring, off-flavors, and odors that soon develop at high temperatures.
Bringing in tomatoes again---even with care, some products can be packaged more
successfully near the terminal than at the shipping end. Tomatoes not ripened to a
marketable stage before they are prepackaged may ripen unevenly and make an unattrac-
tive package. Also they may develop considerable decay in the 2 or 3 days required
to put them into retail channels.
If you'll refer back to Vegetarian No. 2, page 4, and check up on the conditions
of the experiment---here's a follow-up on the potato waxing deal.
Dr. Chesley B. Hall, Agricultural Experiment Station, tells us that "Under the
conditions of this test there were no apparent advantages in applying wax to potatoes
except to give the tubers a better appearance."
"There were no significant differences in weight loss between the 1:5 dilution
waxed potatoes and those that were held in the unwaxed condition. The dilution
mentioned seemed to be comparable to commercial waxes now in general use.
"There was, however, a difference in appearance as the colored emulsions gave
the tubers a more uniform color."
Seems likely that consumer preference will be a determining factor,