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Vegetable/Post Harvest Specialist - Jorge Fonseca

In my research and extension programs I examine effects of pre- and postharvest variables on quality of vegetables and transmit findings to industry and professional communities through different outreach means. My programs target the development of new information and alternative technologies for vegetable production, harvest, handling and fresh-cut processing. The ultimate goal is to aid the industry find economically feasible and environmentally safe practices and technologies that add value to the final product.

My program is somewhat unique because production and postharvest physiology of vegetables grown in desert conditions differ from those grown elsewhere in the country. Aspects such as high light intensity, low humidity, high salt levels in water may trigger mechanisms of adaptation and defense that ultimately alter yields and postharvest quality. This explains why in my dual role as vegetable and postharvest specialist for The University of Arizona I find multiple opportunities to analyze physiological aspects that influence productivity and quality. My research interests include all aspects of vegetable quality, including sensorial, chemical, microbial and nutritional quality.
The Yuma Agricultural Center has an excellent location that allow faculty to interact intensively with an important industry, one that delivers 90% of the winter vegetables sold in the US market. My current projects address primarily regional emerging needs of the industry of leafy vegetable and melons, but they are also directed to develop novel knowledge in different areas, which are thought to be future concerns and interests. Current projects include among others the study of the effect of regulated water stress on vegetable quality, interaction of growth regulators with micronutrients, effect of ag chemical treatments on microbial and nutritional quality, and examination of potential uses of native plants compounds for vegetable crop production.
One of the goals of my outreach program is to encourage understanding between employees in agricultural settings by aiming to incorporate appropriate informational materials to adjust environment and work systems in agricultural sites. These changes are expected to help improve the quality life of Spanish-speaking people in agriculture, and related industries, while maximizing production efficiency, which include production of consistent quality vegetables.
I concentrate part of my efforts on fresh-cut produce research, an activity that is perhaps the food segment that is currently showing the fastest growth in the US market. My research on fresh-cut products is divided in two areas: 1) evaluation of the effect of pre-harvest practices, conditions and technology on shelf life of the processed product and, 2) evaluation of postharvest stress-producing factors on nutritional quality and shelf life.

I believe everyone in the world deserve to enjoy vegetables, for a better quality of life. There are still more than 3 billions people, notably women and children in developing countries, that lack sufficient access to vegetables resulting in learning deficiencies, low productivity at work, weaker immune system and higher incidence of chronic diseases. My programs aim to cooperate with a global effort to increase access and consumption of high quality veggies.

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