You are here

11140028 Controlling Dormancy and Sprouting

Publication Date: 
1 August 2014
Author/Contact :
Glenn Bryan

Contractor :
James Hutton Institute (JHI)

Full Research Project Title: Controlling Dormancy and Sprouting in Potato and Onion
Duration: October 2013 - September 2017


Potato and onion production relies on industrial-scale storage to ensure year round availability, for both fresh and processing sectors. In the UK alone, 4.05 million tonnes of potato tubers and 600,000 tonnes of onions are stored annually. Dormancy properties of potato tubers and onion bulbs are key determinants of postharvest life. Premature sprouting of either organ during storage is accompanied by severe loss of quality. Chemical inhibitors of sprouting (e.g. chlorpropham (CIPC) and maleic hydrazide (MH)) are the UK industry standards; yet they are under threat and concerns about CIPC led to a new EU wide Maximum Residue Level (MRL) for CIPC in 2005 of 10 ppm for potatoes. Furthermore, UK legislation demands regular residue testing. For the potato crop stored in the UK, 44% is treated with CIPC and so there is an urgent need to develop new storage strategies for potato and onion, less reliant on CIPC as well as cold temperature storage. For potato and onion breeders there are no genetic markers that can be used to select for dormancy-related traits. For those involved in all sectors of the supply industries (seed, fresh and processed), predictive models that indicate how a crop may perform in storage are lacking. This project is part funded by the BBSRC’s Horticulture and Potatoes Initiative (HAPI).


James Hutton Institute (JHI), Imperial College, Cranfield University, University of Greenwich, PepsiCo, Albert Bartlett.

Aims and Objectives


- To improve the understanding of dormancy in potato and to use a comparative approach to accelerate our understanding of dormancy in onion.
- To develop a unifying model that can be used to optimise decision making in managing agronomy, storage (e.g. scheduled release), and cultivar assessment.


a) To increase our understanding of the control of dormancy in potato tubers using segregating potato populations that show extensive variation in tuber dormancy to identify genes that control dormancy characteristics.
b) To increase our understanding of the control of dormancy in onion bulbs through the establishment of transcriptome resources for onion that facilitate comparative analysis with potato
c) To develop genetic/molecular/biochemical markers in potato and onion for evaluation of dormancy status in existing and emerging cultivars and to understand the impact of agronomic/storage practices on development of dormancy.
d) To establish a platform for follow-on work, application and engagement with industry.


There are 3 work packages to this project:
WP1. Genetic basis of tuber dormancy
Potato populations that show a great variation in tuber dormancy will be segregated, candidate genes that control those associated dormancy characteristics will be identified.
WP2. Potato and onion transcriptomics
Unlike potato, the large onion genome has not been sequenced and genetic maps are rudimentary, making progress on identification of QTLs difficult.  Genetic transformation is similarly challenging. Instead, we will capitalise on knowledge in potato to drive discovery of potential commonalities between potato and onion that can lead to comparative interrogation at several levels (transcripts, hormones). In the absence of a reference genome, Cranfield University (CU) will perform an onion transcriptome study using RNA-seq.
WP3. Integrative biology of dormancy and sprouting
Onset and duration of dormancy and rate of subsequent sprout growth are governed by genetic factors but are also regulated by multiple environmental factors during crop growth and storage, and by internal hormone signalling. The basic science component of this project will integrate physiological, molecular and genetic approaches, to generate more robust models for potato and, where practicable, apply these in onion.
Key Findings
  • An updated unified model for hormonal dormancy control for potato (also relevant to onion).
  • Genome locations (QTLs) identified associated with tuber dormancy and sprout growth. This could potentially lead to markers for tuber dormancy/sprouting for use in breeding within 5 year period
  • Candidate genes involved in dormancy control have been identified. Transgenic lines for functional validation and further expression work have been produced for one gene (TERMINAL FLOWER 1/CENTRORADIALIS).
  • Profiles of gene expression, hormone concentrations, key metabolites and respiration through progression of dormancy, dormancy break and sprout growth have been obtained for both potato and onion.


How useful did you find this information?
Only logged in users can vote. Click on a star rating to show your choice, please note you can only vote once.
No votes yet