The season for mango harvesting is at the peak for most of the major mango growing regions in the country. Farmers are grappling with the question of post- harvest losses and many are left wondering what do with the bumper harvest they are expecting. Various surveys have indicated that approximately 40% to 45% of the harvested mangoes are wasted due to post harvest losses.
A casual talk with mango farmers shockingly reveals that farmers are either ignorant or they don’t care of the fact that their actions or inactions during the growing period of these fruits in the field have a great influence on the magnitude of the losses they incur.
Kenyan small scale fruit farmers are faced with technological challenges as regards post harvest handling of their produce. Either there is limited innovation for post harvest handling of fruits or farmers are just ignorant of their existence therefore minimal adoption.
Despite these challenges, farmers are not left without options. The farmer can take charge of their produce way before harvest time in order to minimize the post harvest losses they will incur. Proper management of factors and conditions that the fruits are exposed to in the field before harvest has a greater impact on the post harvest losses as these factors greatly impact the shelf life of the fruits consequently reducing the post harvest losses. These factors, actions inactions by the farmers as the fruits are growing and developing in the field affect various processes of the fruit including:
maturation, physical appearance, susceptility of the produce to physiological and pathological factors that influence the quality of the fruit. These are the options that the farmers are left with, just before thinking of harvest or post harvest handling technologies which could be unavailable or expensive for the small scale farmer in the village.
- Cultural practices like pruning and thinning. Thinning of the small fruit lets at early stages of the mangoes development influences the quality size and yield of the fruits trees. Too many fruits per tree compromises on the size of the fruit and various quality aspects of the fruits. Crop load influences the severity and incidences of pulp breakdown in mangoes. Pruning of the tree, on the other hand, exposes the fruits to enough sunlight and this enhances various quality aspects like color development, maturation and alleviates fungal infections.
- The frequency of irrigation has a greater impact on the shelf life of mangoes. Too much water leads to water logging and rotting of fruits. Very dry conditions also lead to stressed plant affecting a number of quality aspects of the fruit hence need for optimal water.
- The nutrition regime of the mangoes has to be balanced. There has to be a balance amongst the important minerals involved in mango production competing characteristics in their hand has been associated with increased shelf life due to its role in enhancing the firmness of the fruit.
- Choice of cultivar is very important as some cultivars are more susceptible to various pathological and physiological infections.
Health Benefits of Mangoes
- Prevents Cancer:
Research has shown antioxidant compounds in mango fruit have been found to protect against colon, breast, leukemia and prostate cancers.
These compounds include quercetin, isoquercitrin, astragalin, fisetin, gallic acid and methylgallat, as well as the abundant enzymes.
- Lowers Cholesterol:
The high levels of fiber, pectin and vitamin C help to lower serum cholesterol levels, specifically Low- Density Lipoprotein (the bad stuff).
- Clears the Skin:
Can be used both internally and externally for the skin. Mangos help clear clogged pores and eliminate pimples.
- Improves Eye Health:
One cup of sliced mangoes supplies 25 percent of the needed daily value of vitamin A, which promotes good eyesight and prevents night blindness and dry eyes.
- Alkalizes the Whole Body:
The tartaric acid, malic acid, and a trace of citric acid found in the fruit help to maintain the alkali reserve of the body. Mango fruit and mango cubes on the wooden table. hasten the maturity of mangoes while the fruits are still on the field. Very low
temperatures on the other hand may lead to chilling injury.
- May Help with Diabetes:
Mango leaves help normalize insulin levels in the blood. The traditional home remedy involves boiling leaves in water, soaking through the night and then consuming the filtered decoction in the morning. Mango fruit also has a relatively low glycemic index (41-60) so moderate quantities will not spike your sugar levels.
- Improves Digestion:
Papayas are not the only fruit that contain enzymes for breaking down including mangoes, which have this healthful quality.
The fiber in mangos also helps digestion and elimination. Fruit Farming These among other various options indicate that all is not lost for the mango farmers. The farmers can still take charge of their produce right at the farm.
Bitange Naphis Mokaya
Ph.D Agronomy student
(University of Nairobi)