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Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Horticulture

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Improving Fruit Postharvest Quality through Best Management Practices for Perishable Vegetable Production in Protective Structures in Nicaragua, Haiti, Honduras, Dominican Republic and Costa Rica

Target Countries: Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua

Principal Investigator: Bielinski M. Santos, University of Florida


Project Description

Bell pepper production in Central America and the Caribbean has become one of the main agricultural commodities for exporting into the U.S. and the European Union. To guarantee constant supply and quality, small and medium-size growers use passively-ventilated protective structures (i.e. greenhouse and high tunnels) to control the growing environment, to reduce pests, and to improve fruit quality and yields. One of the main obstacles to remain sustainable and profitable is managing high temperatures and relative humidity inside the structures. Small and medium-size growers cannot afford using electric or diesel fans and cooling systems to lower temperatures and relative humidity, which causes increased fruit sun-scalding, lowered fruit number and size, and thus increased postharvest losses (as high as 35% in some colored peppers). Solving this challenge through the implementation of appropriate agricultural practices (i.e. managing planting densities, irrigation and pruning and using sun protectants) will help securing jobs and timely market supply, while reducing the dependency on fossil fuels.

The main goal of the project is to implement technologies to enhance bell pepper yields and quality and to develop a comprehensive education, research and market-knowledge network for information exchange. The project is divided in two main components: a) research and validation, and b) education, cooperation and communication. For the first component, already-proven technologies are validated in greenhouses and high tunnels. On the second component, hands-on training workshops and educational meetings are conducted, and the “Protected Agriculture Information Network for Central America and the Caribbean (PAINET)” is created and organized. The implementation of this project will impact: a) the current production practices, b) the educational level of the participants and stakeholders, c) further integration of women in agribusiness, and d) the long-term future of the protected agriculture vegetable industry in the region.

Project deliverables

Materials in Spanish language: