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Quick Guide: Alternative Sprout Suppressants

Publication Date: 
4 December 2018

Information taken from the AHDB publication Potato Store Managers Guide. Download here: https://www.ahdb.org.uk/knowledge-library/potato-storage-hub

In order to avoid the use of sprout suppressants entirely, storage temperatures need to be consistently below 3°C.

However, potatoes held at such cold temperatures will be affected by low-temperature sweetening which can adversely affect taste, texture and colour on roasting/ frying.

In potatoes stored for processing, where low temperature storage is not an option (because of poor fry colour), the use of sprout suppressants will be necessary for all but the shortest storage durations.

To provide levy-payers in industry with more sprout suppression options, the AHDB is funding research projects, which investigate the use of alternatives heading in to 2019 and build upon previous research work in this area (R438, R464).

Ethylene

Ethylene is a plant hormone that inhibits sprout elongation once sprouting has naturally initiated. Research has shown that performance varies significantly between varieties, as some are more responsive to the hormone than others.

As a result, ethylene is more effective at lower temperatures (< 5 °C) and is therefore more widely used to control sprouting on potato varieties destined for the fresh pack market, such as Nectar and Melody. 

Unlike CIPC, ethylene usage as a sprout suppressant is not governed by a Maximum Residue Level (MRL) threshold and because it has minimal residual effect, sprouting can resume just a few days after removal from storage, which can be a disadvantage for shelf life.

Controlling sprouting with ethylene has proved less popular with potatoes destined for processing. This is because, in addition to inhibiting sprout growth, ethylene can also increase respiration in tubers. The resulting accumulated sugars have an undesirable effect on fry colour, which varies significantly between varieties.

Spearmint Oil

Spearmint oil is an essential oil that received full registration in 2012 for usage as a sprout suppressant (active substance R-carvone) and is currently marketed as Biox-M. It is an established sprout suppressant for the pre-pack sector, where it is also used to burn back existing sprout growth. Spearmint oil is usually applied as a hot fog and requires repeated treatments as sprout control is reversible once a residue critical threshold is reached.

Its use in the processing sector has been minor to date and further research is underway to identify efficient sprout control strategies for this essential oil.  

Ongoing Research

More research into ethylene and other alternatives are currently underway, as previously reported in the July and September issues of the Storage Bulletin. The focus is on better understanding of maleic hydrazide as a sprout suppressant and integration of different sprout suppressants for both processing and fresh markets. Other new work is providing updated information on dormancy characteristics of varieties to better understand how we can use the natural dormant period, where tubers do not sprout to our advantage.

Other suppressants

There are several other active ingredients in use elsewhere in Europe and North America.

These may become available in the UK in the future, subject to meeting requirements for approval.

These include

  • 1,4-dimethylnaphthalene (DMN sold as 1,4 Sight®)
  • Orange oil (Argos®)
  • 3-decen-2-one (SmartBlock®)
  • and clove oil.

If you are interested in testing out alternative suppressants in your own stores, please contact our sprout suppression specialists free of charge on the Storage Advice Line 0800 0282 111 or e-mail sbcsr@ahdb.org.uk  

Storage workshops

To support levy-payers in their sprout control decision-making, the AHDB is putting together a series of storage workshops. They will be delivered by specialists from Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research with support from the AHDB Potatoes KE team. Workshops are due to take place regionally, between January and March 2019. Dates will soon be confirmed soon, to register your interest please contact comms@ahdb.org.uk

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