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R456 Blackheart

Publication Date: 
24 February 2016
Author/Contact :
Adrian Briddon

Contractor :
SBCSR, Cranfield University

Blackheart - an emerging problem for the GB potato packing industry
Duration: August 2011 - Dec 2015

Aim: To determine the main risk factors of blackheart in order to allow improved management of crops and to minimise blackheart incidence.

Blackheart is a physiological disorder resulting in necrosis and cavitation of central tissues of potatoes. It does not occur in crops from the field and is therefore a particular problem for GB where a large proportion of the crop is marketed from store. Blackheart is a particular problem for the fresh potato industry because QC procedures cannot adequately control the defect which is undermining consumer confidence. Blackheart is estimated to account for 25-30% of consumer complaints.


a) Systematic review and survey
b) Development of a standard method for inducing blackheart
c) Risk assessments
The studentship will address
d) Reappraisal of tuber respiration and blackheart susceptibility
e) Determine the basis and temporal change of gaseous permeability of potato tissue in relation to blackheart disorder
f) To develop reliable and predictive biomarker(s) of blackheart disorder to gain a mechanistic understanding of temporal susceptibility and provide guidelines to storage practitioners on presymptomatic identification and segregation of consignments that are likely to suffer from blackheart disorder.


The project had two components: a PhD studentship project at Cranfield University (CU) and trials at Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research (SBCSR). The trials led to the development of a method to induce blackheart which can be used on a commercial scale to assess the likelihood that stocks will develop blackheart symptoms. The method was also used to select stocks for more detailed biochemical and physiological studies (as part of the PhD studentship). Not all tubers within a stock designated as blackheart susceptible will ultimately develop symptoms of the condition and the number of tubers which can be studied using the detailed techniques is limited. As a result, it has not been possible to identify reliable biomarkers which could be used to predict the risk of blackheart developing. The techniques have highlighted the variation in the occurrence of metabolites between different stocks and have provided the first indication of the pathways and particular molecules that may warrant further study.


A Grower Guide and the final research reports for the two components of the project are provided below, along with a literature review which was produced at the start of the project.


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