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Facts on post harvest
storage of watermelons

Grower Solutions Magazine
Lefroy Valley Magazine

Dec 2002

Recently I was asked by a grower, what the optimum storage/transport temperature was for watermelons, since he was concerned that at 12o C there was condensation on the fruit, which would be ideal for post harvest disease organisms such as botrytis to take hold. It was a good question, which prompted me to research the answer.

I was aware that growers from the north, shipping in the cool season, often do not cool their watermelons, nor do they use refrigerated transport. Growers that ship in the hot months (October to March) are using refrigerated transport, with and without precooling, usually at about 12oC .

On searching the literature available on this subject the following became evident. Most research has been conducted at temperatures between 10 and 16o C at a relative humidity between 85-90%.The general consensus is that watermelons will keep for 2-3 weeks if stored at between 12 - 15o C . Temperatures below 10o C , can result in chilling injury to the fruit (pitting of the skin, flesh breakdown and blackrot).

Watermelon should be cooled to between 12-15o C within 24 hours of harvesting, if they are to be stored for long periods of time. Fruit can get over-ripe fairly quickly if not cooled. However, watermelon colour will continue to improve for up to 7 days after harvesting if kept at temperatures of 18-22o C , but it will actually fade (get lighter) if kept at temperatures of below 12o C for long periods of time. It is important to note that once harvested the sugar content or sweetness will not improve.


This does give both growers and market agents some room to move in managing watermelons post harvest.

Watermelons should, ideally not be stored or transported together with climacteric fruit (those that give off ethylene) as the ethylene will result in a shortened lifespan and damage the fruit.

Allan MacKinley

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