Bruised and battered are the fortunes of carrot farmers of Vattavada and Kanthallur, much like the commodity they toil hard to harvest. As the tuber decayed fast in bags it did not find many takers in the market.
Faced with market rejection, the farmers approached the Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council Keralam (VFPCK), which in turn took up the matter with Kerala Agriculture University (KAU). A KAU team, led by Associate Director of Research K. Uma Maheswaran, traced the issue to the cleaning machines provided by Horticorp.
The problem arose with the mechanisation of the cleaning process. Earlier, the farmers manually cleaned the crop in the running waters of streams near the farms and packed it for markets. Now, after being cleaned in the machine, the carrots are immediately packed and those with cuts are rejected there itself. However, merchants and consumers began complaining about the durability of the produce, with carrots decaying much ahead of their shelf life.
The KAU team found that the tin roller in the cleaning machine left scratches on the carrots, which hastened decaying when packed.
Ms. Maheswaran told The Hindu that minor modifications to the roller could prevent the bruises. Its sharp edges caused the damage and a rubber coating to the tin sheet would solve the problem. She added that the farmers packed the wet crop tightly in gunny bags where fungus and bacteria would initiate the decaying process in the hot weather.
Ms. Maheswaran said carrots should be dried after cleaning. Also, if bags that allow air passage, such as the ones used to pack onion, are used, fungal attacks could be countered.
These bags would help keep the commodity dry during transportation also, she said.
Most sensitive tuber
“Among tubers, carrot is the most sensitive to fungal and bacterial infections. It is used in labs for culturing fungus for its fungal-growing features. Damage could be avoided if better care is taken while cleaning and packing the commodity.”
She said an awareness campaign should be held among farmers on the need to avoid damage in the post-harvest period. A report would be submitted to the VFPCK in this regard.