Improving fruit quality and post-harvest life of lime

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There is a constant demand for fresh lime throughout the year as it is used domestically, in the food processing industry and as an ingredient in indigenous medicine. It is also identified as one of the high priority crops. According to FAO statistics (2017), the area under cultivation of lemon and lime in Sri Lanka is 12.14 ha with an annual average production of 6,640 tons in 2014. Lime crop thrives well in the dry and intermediate zones of the country, where it can be found as medium-scale orchards or as scattered trees in home gardens. There are growth variations and the peak season falls between April to July.

During the peak season, the lime growers leave the fruit without harvesting as the income is insufficient to recover the cost of production. Therefore, study of fruit phenology & development of Research at Bench and Beyond Research at Bench and Beyond Improving fruit quality and post-harvest life of lime maturity indices, manipulation of narrow fruit season targeting early or late season marketing & developing appropriate storage strategies for programmed year-round marketing would be highly beneficial for sustainable lime production and processing.

A Competitive Research grant completed in 2018 from the discipline of Agriculture and Food Science resulted in developing a color chart that can be used by lime growers to identify the best harvesting maturity based on the peel color which will aid in fetching a better market price and maintaining fruit quality for an extended time period. This grant was awarded in 2015 to Dr W A Harindra Champa of the Institute of Postharvest Technology and the study was carried out with the aim of studying fruit phenology, maturity manipulation, fruit season and development of appropriate storage strategies for year-round marketing.

The study resulted in finding optimum harvest maturity for fresh market and storage purpose and the optimum doses of pre-harvest foliar sprays of gibberellins, brassinosteroids and salicylic acid to advance, accelerate or delay the development stage of lime. These major findings are directly beneficial to lime growers in Sri Lanka which can aid development of lime-based agribusiness leading to generation of employment opportunities.

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