Post Harvest losses mitigation by improved plant hEALING

Project coordinator:
Prof. Hervé Vanderschuren, KU Leuven, Belgium

Partner countries:
Belgium, Germany, Kenya, South Africa

Scientific abstract
The rationale of the PHEALING project is that plant healing represent an important genetic potential to reduce post-harvest losses with limited reliance on storage facilities that are costly and energy consuming. The use of natural plant healing mechanisms and microbial antagonists have the potential to lead to methods that can be applied across a wide range of varieties preferred by growers, consumers and industries.

We hypothesize that plant healing could expand to most crops and therefore the project builds on the selection of three crop species that can be considered as model because of for their consumed organs (fruit (tomato), tuber (potato) and storage root (cassava)) and their reported high levels of post-harvest losses.

The specific objectives of the PHEALING project are to:
1) study and characterize plant healing mechanisms in model crop species;
2) identify conditions conducive for plant healing in order to start exploitation of this natural process;
3) identify and characterize genetic diversity for plant healing in the selected crop species to help tapping in this yet unexplored genetic potential;
4) test novel biocontrol approaches including bacteriophages and priming molecules to induce plant healing and to reduce post-harvest losses.

The PHEALING project will build on a collaborative work with farmers and processors that will enable identification of specific post-harvest losses as well as the bottlenecks in the implementation of novel methods, fostering transdisciplinary approaches. The project will be embedded in value chains, EU focus groups and EU-Africa research collaboration initiatives in order to maximize the benefits of the findings. The project combines:
1) incremental adaptation by increasing efficiency in post-harvest handling of crops and reducing waste,
2) systemic adaptation by unlocking the potential of genetic diversity in plant healing and
3) transformative adaptation by providing the value chain with carbon-neutral methods.


University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany

University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya

South Eastern Kenya University, Kitui, Kenya

University of Kwazulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa