One of the problems facing agriculture is the vulnerability of agricultural produce to quick spoilage. Provision of food through agriculture cannot be adequately achieved without effective and cheap storage techniques. This situation applies to all crops.
Potato, being a major delicacy in most parts of the world, is also prone to quick spoilage. It has a relatively short shelf life after harvest, hence, adequate storage facility has to be devised to increase its shelf life and to ultimately increase the profit of the farmer.
Smallholder farmers contribute about 70% of global food production. This implies that any problem facing the smallholder farmers will also affect global food production. Storing of potatoes and other agricultural crops is a major problem facing farmers globally.
Due to lack of resources to enhance proper storage of potatoes, most of the potatoes lavish in rot shortly after harvest; reducing farmer’s income and food to feed the populace.
There are several factors that cause the spoilage or shorten the shelf life of crops like potato. Many farmers do not know how to keep potatoes One of them is temperature.
Temperature is a key factor in crop production; it is very crucial from the point of sowing till harvesting and most importantly during storage. Temperature induces ripening. Ripening of potatoes has a limit; once the limit is scaled, spoilage of the potatoes sets in.
This is why some farmers, especially those that export, prefer to harvest some crops when they are mature and allow the ripening process starts during storage.
There is a clear difference between ripening and maturation of crops. A crop is said to be mature when it has completed its growth phase; a crop is ripe when it shows some physical changes as a result of the maturation, as a change in color, texture, size, and others.
Storing potatoes for a long period requires some steps and precautions; they are guides on how to preserve potatoes to enhance long-term storage of the potato. They are:
- Avoid mechanical injury during harvest: One of the key factors that cause quick spoilage or reduction in the shelf life of crops is the harvesting procedures. During harvesting of potatoes, ensure you avoid mechanical injury as much as possible. A bruise in potato tubers during harvesting causes quick deterioration of the crop quality due to the action of bacteria or fungi. Potatoes that are clean and lack bruises stay longer in the store than those with bruises.
- Ensure you sort before storage: It is quite impossible to eliminate bruises on potatoes; it can only be limited. Keeping bruised and cleaned potatoes together will lead to quick spoilage as the bruised ones will tend to rot at a faster rate and also spread the rot to the cleaned ones. Store only the cleaned and neatly harvested potatoes.
- Lastly, do not wash potatoes intended for storage. Washing potatoes earmarked for storage makes them more vulnerable to rot and also shorten their storage life. Cleaning is better to rid them off attached sand particles and debris; this is how to store potatoes from the garden.
Storage conditions for preserving potatoes
Now that you have selected the ones to store and the ones to consume or sell at the farm gate. There are some conditions that must be met to ensure the potatoes are stored for the desired period. Ventilation, moisture, and temperature are the key parameters that enhance the storage of potatoes for a long period in the store.
- Temperature: Temperature increases ripening and ripening increases spoilage. The ideal temperature for storing raw potatoes is 7oC – 13oC; this will keep the potatoes for many months without spoilage in the store. Do not store potatoes in the fridge; storing potatoes in the fridge makes it unsafe for consumption. Storing potatoes in the fridge leads to the conversion of its starch to sugar which results in darkening of the tuber when cooked. Cooler conditions greatly increase storage life.
- Ventilation: Proper ventilation results to a longer storage period of potatoes; during storage, the potatoes respire, which generates heat and in turn can induce ripening and rot ultimately. However, with proper ventilation, the inflow of air will neutralize the heat generated as the potatoes respire, thus, creating a cooling effect and making the storage condition favorable. This is how to store potatoes in the kitchen.
- Moisture: Moisture favors the growth of fungi. Fungi have the ability to cause damage to the potatoes when stored in a moist environment. This is why it is not advisable to wash potatoes before storing. Ensure the storage is dry always and keep water out of the storage vicinity.
It is best storing potatoes after harvest in a dark environment on basements, cool cellars, and garage. This is because digging and storing potatoes stabilize temperature. Do not store potatoes in an air-tight container; it leads to spoilage at a faster rate. The woven basket is the best material to store potatoes for a long period as it allows free flow of air.
Ensure you inspect the potatoes while in the store regularly to detect scars caused by insect pests or sprouts. These two cases can rot the skin of the potatoes and cause quick damage during storage. These are simple tips on how to keep potatoes from sprouting; it requires little or no cost to carry out. As a potato farmer, you can simply store your potatoes for a long period with these tips, thus, increasing the profitability of your enterprise.
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