Early detection of potato storage diseases by gas analysis


Storage diseases of potatoes cause major losses each year for the industry. Diseased potatoes, and in particular those associated with bacterial soft rots, release specific volatile compounds which if recognised would allow early detection and diagnosis, enabling store managers to initiate preventative measures. Early detection of Pectobacterium carotovorum in store is therefore extremely desirable if the disease is to be controlled and contained.


University of Warwick, FERA, Owlstone Nanotech and Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research (SBCSR) 

A range of commercial technologies were tested: FAIMS (Field Asymmetric Ion Mobility Spectrometry), PID (Photoionization detection), Electronic Noses based on metal oxide, electrochemical and NDIR (Non Dispersive Infrared) gas sensors. The first part of the research has been carried out in order to evaluate the potential of these types of instruments in a laboratory environment. Potato tubers were inoculated with P. carotovorum (the main pathogen causing soft rot) and subsequently sampled and analysed with gas sensing instruments. Two time points (namely 5 and 2 days post-inoculation) were selected for pre-symptomatic and symptomatic detection of the aforementioned disease, with the resultant data analysed to detect potential differences.


Early diagnostics via dynamic headspace sampling with FAIMS could be achieved both at symptomatic and pre-symptomatic stages. The results from the PID sensor substantiated and strengthened the original hypothesis that it was possible to employ gas analysis sensors for potato tubers disease monitoring at selected time points. Furthermore, both the Lonestar FAIMS and Tiger PID, as applied in this research, offered a considerable more practical and reliable engineering approach when compared to the more established techniques of GC/GC-MS, tools of previous experimental research.

Project code:
01 October 2012 - 31 December 2016
Project leader:
Massimo Rutolo


11140009 Gas Analysis Storage FINAL