What Does Heat Do to Crops After Harvest?

October 6, 2023 5:32 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Woman,Farmer,Agronomist,Working,In,Grain,Field,And,Planning,IncomeWhen it comes to post-harvest handling, it is essential to consider how temperature can impact the quality and longevity of crops. Heat, in particular, plays a critical role in determining the post-harvest fate of crops. In this blog post, we will explore what heat can do to crops after harvest, from accelerated spoilage to beneficial processes such as ripening and curing. Understanding the effects of heat is crucial for farmers, distributors, and consumers to ensure the best quality produce reaches the market.

1. Accelerated Spoilage:

Heat can significantly accelerate the spoilage of harvested crops. Higher temperatures create favorable conditions for microbial growth, which leads to increased spoilage rates. Bacteria, yeast, and molds thrive in warm environments, causing produce to decay and become unsuitable for consumption. It is important to store harvested crops in cool and adequately ventilated areas to slow down the spoilage process and extend their shelf life.

2. Loss of Nutritional Value:

Exposure to heat can result in a loss of nutritional value in crops. Many vitamins and enzymes found in fruits and vegetables break down or degrade at higher temperatures. For instance, vitamin C is vulnerable to heat, and prolonged exposure can significantly reduce its content in produce. Therefore, it is crucial to handle crops with care and avoid subjecting them to excessive heat, ensuring that the nutritional value remains intact for consumers.

3. Ripening and Color Changes:

On the other hand, controlled exposure to heat can benefit certain crops by accelerating the ripening process. Temperature plays a vital role in various biological processes, including the conversion of starches to sugars and the degradation of organic acids. Thus, by regulating the heat exposure, farmers can control the ripening of fruits such as bananas, avocados, and tomatoes, ensuring they reach the ideal stage of ripeness for consumers. Additionally, heat can induce color changes in some fruits, like oranges and tomatoes, enhancing their visual appeal.

4. Curing and Drying:

Heat plays a crucial role in the curing and drying processes of particular crops. For example, tobacco leaves are traditionally cured through a controlled application of heat. The heat removes excess moisture from the leaves, allowing them to dry and develop the desired flavor and texture. Similarly, herbs and spices such as oregano, thyme, and chili peppers are often dried using heat to extend shelf life and concentrate the flavors. Thus, in specific agricultural sectors, heat is intentionally applied to modify the characteristics of harvested crops.

5. Affecting Seed Viability:

Heat can have a detrimental impact on the viability of seeds. High temperatures can reduce the germination rate and vigor of seeds, affecting their ability to sprout and grow into healthy plants. Heat can cause damage to the seed coat, internal tissues, and various biological processes necessary for successful germination. To ensure the long-term viability of seeds, it is important to store them in cool and dry conditions, away from extreme heat sources.


Heat significantly influences the fate of harvested crops, from accelerated spoilage to beneficial processes such as ripening and curing. Farmers and distributors should prioritize the proper handling and storage of crops to prevent accelerated spoilage and preserve the nutritional value. Controlled heat exposure can be used as a tool to induce ripening, enhance colors, and promote desirable characteristics in certain crops. However, it is crucial to be aware of the potential negative effects of heat, such as the loss of nutritional value and reduced seed viability. By understanding how heat impacts crops after harvest, we can ensure the best quality produce reaches consumers’ tables.

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