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114R484 Tuber Respiration

Publication Date: 
27 July 2017
Author/Contact :
Glyn Harper

Contractor :
Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research (SBCSR)

Full Research Project Title: The effect of temperature on tuber respiration
Duration: October 2013 - June 2017


Respiration rate is a key indicator of the physiological activity of tubers and many factors affect the rate including variety, field growth conditions, maturity level, harvest, damage, disease, sprouting and storage temperature.

Temperature is the most important store management tool and there are delicate balances to be struck when selecting a store temperature. Higher temperatures accelerate biological deterioration due to disease and sprouting but minimise cold-induced sweetening. Lower temperatures minimise biological deterioration but at increased energy costs of refrigeration and cold-induced sweetening. The increasing cost of energy is a reason for managers to look very closely at storage temperatures.


Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research (SBCSR)

Aims and Objectives

Aim: To provide additional information on the energy and ventilation requirements of potatoes at specific store temperatures.


a) To measure the respiration rates of current varieties over a wide temperature range and prolonged storage period

b) To calculate the energy requirements for potato over the selected temperature range.


Four current varieties, including two from each of the top four (by area grown) pre-pack and processing varieties, to be CIPC treated at intake and stored at six temperatures between 1-15 °C for a duration of six months. A standard pull down will be used to achieve final temperatures. Respiration will be measured, as CO2 production, at monthly intervals. The above data will be used to calculate the energy requirements by standard methods.


Overall less variation in respiration rate in relation to storage temperature was observed in a range of varieties evaluated than had been previously measured.

Respiration rates during early storage showed similarity to the observations reported by Burton (1989). The high rates of respiration at low temperatures, the “respiratory burst”, are part of the response to, and protection of tubers from, low temperature stress.

From approx. three months’ storage onwards the respiration rates from 1.0 to 9 C temperature were very similar, generally to the end of the storage period. The lowest respiration rates were usually found at 2.5-5 C and at around 3 months’ storage.

Rates at 15 and 20 C increased rapidly during storage and were probably associated with sprouting which became increasingly evident and led to respiration measurements being terminated after 2-3 months.

Differences in respiration rates were found between Russet Burbank, which respired at the lowest rate, and the other varieties and between Maris Piper, King Edward & Melody and Lady Claire which generally respired at the highest rate.

For a copy of the final report please email

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