HPP-30806 Postharvest Physiology


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Group work1
Course coordinator(s)dr. JC Verdonk
Lecturer(s)dr. RE Schouten
dr. JC Verdonk
prof. dr. EJ Woltering
dr. JAL van Kan
Examiner(s)dr. JC Verdonk

Language of instruction:


Mandatory knowledge:

ZSS06100 Laboratory Safety

Assumed knowledge on:

Basic Plant Physiology.

Continuation courses:

Quality analyses of horticultural and other plant products; MSc Quality in food chains & MSc spec. Greenhouse Horticulture in MPS-Plant Sciences.


Note: This course has a maximum number of participants (and has on top of that reserved places for new MSc students). The deadline for registration is one week earlier than usual. See Academic Year (http://www.wur.nl/en/Education-Programmes/Current-Students/Agenda-Calendar-Academic-Year.htm) -> Registration for Courses.

Upon harvest plants, or parts of plants, are removed from the natural sources of water, nutrients and light that sustained their previous growth and development. This results in changes in the product that alter its value, usually decreasing it. The changes arising from the act of harvesting are superimposed on other changes that are independent of harvest that likewise have an effect on product value. Alterations in the product that reduce its value are ideally avoided. Post-harvest physiology seeks to understand the physical and physiological basis of the changes that occur in products post-harvest so as to control and augment positive changes while preventing or diminishing negative changes. As well as deepening the understanding of basic physiological processes such as respiration, membrane physiology etc., the course will extend the students' knowledge of physiology in to new areas dealing with specifically post-harvest features of plants and their component parts, for example ripening and senescence, modified and controlled atmospheres, ethylene physiology, and water uptake of cut flowers.
Finally, we will look at the impact of novel technologies such as next generation sequencing, transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics to study the processes that happen in fruits and vegetables during post-harvest. The measurement of post-harvest quality has shifted from traditional phenomics (firmness, colour, weight, shape) to modern metabolic analyses and other high throughput approaches. We will look into the biosynthesis of natural products especially quality markers such as colour, vitamins and flavour and describe some examples of the effect of metabolic engineering on post-harvest quality.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- classify the importance of proper postharvest handling for food quality and prevention of food waste;
- understand the basic principles of hormone signaling, membrane physiology, senescence and programed cell death, respiration, plant pathology, water loss, temperature management, and conditioned atmosphere;
- connect hormone signaling, membrane physiology, senescence and programed cell death, respiration, plant pathology, water loss, temperature management, and conditioned atmosphere to the quality of plant products;
- analyze the quality of plant products using biochemical markers, visual assessment, and protein activity;
- design (theoretical) experiments to assess the quality of plant products, and to test optimal storage or transport conditions.


- lectures;
- self study;
- practicals.


- 25% of final mark is derived from the mark of the practical reports;
- 75% of final mark is obtained from a written examination.

Restricted Optional for: MPSPlant SciencesMScB: Spec. B - Greenhouse Horticulture2MO