Chencha, a small town tucked up 3013 meter above sea level with its salubriously chilly climate is indeed an apple orchard. Annually it cultivates 15 metric tons of apples that amount to 30% of total estimated national production of 50 metric tons. But producers’ saga seems to be far from over as they sell fruits on farm gate price forfeiting actual benefit due to lack of storage facilities as it throws demand-and-supply ratio in shambles, AMU researcher, Mr Behailu Asrat argues.

The researcher in his findings on ‘Effects of storage duration on quality parameters of apple cultivars’ further exemplified that in spite of no-storage facilities few farmers still have per capita income of ETB 100,000 to 300,000. Hence low-cost storage facility needs to be in place, which will convincingly recuperate farmers’ ailing economy and contribute immensely to the national exchequer.

Having examined the effects of storability on major apple cultivars grown in the area at lower temperature in underground pit, he said will improve fruits’ lifespan, meet actual market demand and yield appropriate income to the farmers. Analysis of bio-chemical parameters of fruits states that different storage durations do effect varying changes in starch, sugar, Vitamin-C and phenol content.

He conducted research at Gamo Highlands in Chencha on four cultivars i.e. Crispin, BR, Red Delicious and Jonagorad, wherein healthy fruits stored in underground pit in a wooden box at 0, 30, 60 and 90 days of interval show that apple accumulates starch at early stage under storage duration from 30-to-90 days with temperature play the key role.

Furthermore, conversion of starch into sugar continued under increased storage duration; while varying temperature inside pit is a key to fluctuating phenol amount. Ascorbic acid, an index of nutrient quality didn’t go through significant variation under particular storage duration. However, post-harvest metabolism of ascorbate is equally important as its values at harvest, environment, cultural and generic factors do affect the total concentration of Vitamin-C in the fruit.

The study emphasized that change in fruits’ firmness is a serious problem that results in decline in quality. Similarly, juice quantum experiences marginal drops under storage period from 0-to-30 days but plunges significantly from 30-to-60 and 60-to-90 days. Other important factors like total soluble solution, titratable acidity and sugar acid ratio were also looked into.

The study further conclusively expound that storage duration in an underground pit influences physio-chemical characteristics of fruit. And urges farmers to store fruits for 3-to-4 months under similar conditions that can fetch attractive price during peak demand period, study infers. And it strongly recommends cost-effective underground storage as the promising strategy to mitigate apple farmers’ woe.

The research terms pit depth of 3-to-3.5 meters as optimum because at 4 meters ground water spoils the apple cart. On other hand, it suggests waxing can lengthen storage duration; decay, increased temperature and underground water might disturb storage duration equilibrium, Mr Behailu averred.

This research finding has been published in Scholarly Journal of Agricultural Science and Journal of Agriculture and Food Technology.

(Corporate Communication Directorate)