Citrus Production, Part 6 Harvesting and Handling

Citrus trees bear fruits in about three to five years from planting and can be harvested after five to six months from flowering depending on the species, cultural management, and the environment. Unlike other fruits, citrus does not exhibit further ripening after harvest so that picking at the right stage of maturity is most IMPORTANT.

Maturity Indices

– change in color
– juice content
– level of soluble solids (sugar)
– titratable acidity
– solids to acid ratio

However, some varieties like Szinkom and Batangas mandarin, and calamondin hardly lose their green color at maturity. In this case, do periodic-sampling to ascertain measures of maturity. For standardization purposes, minimum maturity requirements are set which serve only as a guaranty but not for storage or shelf life (refer to Table 1).


Method & Time of Picking

Harvest citrus fruits by pulling or clipping from the stem. The general rule is “twist, jerk, and pull”. This procedure is highly recommended for tight-skinned citrus like Ladu, Valencia, and Pummelo. For loose-skinned like Szinkom, Batangas, and Ponkan mandarins, clip close to the calyx.

The best time to harvest the fruits is from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. During this period, the dew has already dried up and the fruits have already lost their turgor. Turgid fruits are easiliy bruised, resulting to “oleocellosis”. This is a direct injury to the oil cells of the fruits in its rind. The physiological disorder appear as brown patches on the rind, greatly lowering the fruit quality. Use canvass bags with hooks at the bottom to transfer fruits to large, padded containers.

Packaging & Transport

Bring the fruits for distant transport from the field to a shed for sorting and packing.

1. Washing – Thoroughly wash the fruits to remove dirt.

2. Drying – Dry the fruits with clean cloth. Carefully handle the citrus to prevent from getting bruised or deformed.

3. Sorting –

  • Sort the fruits according to similarities in sizes, color, and rind qualities.
  • Discard fruits that are mechanically injured, badly damaged by pest, and deformed.
  • Remove stubs, leaves, and other foreign matters.

4. Waxing – Wax the fruits to minimize shrivelling and maintain the gloss of the rind for several days.

5. Packing –

  • a. Carefully pack the sorted fruits in plastic crates.
  • b. Avoid using large and deep containers because it cause losses due to compression injury. Appropriate container size is also important for repeated manual handling operations during transport.
  • c. Avoid rough handling particularly during loading and unloading to prevent fruit injury.
  • d. Transport should follow immediately after harvesting and packaging the fruits.

Table 2. Temperature, relative humidity and storage life of some citrus fruits.

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