Understanding the fundamental role of ethylene in potato storage


At the time the research was commisioned the use of ethylene as a sprout suppressant was limited to low temperature, pre-pack potato storage. The aim of this study was to broaden the understanding of the application of ethylene as a sprout suppressant. A range of cultivars and application timings were tested and periodically assessed for sugars and plant growth regulators at Cranfield University and physical sprouting at Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research

Ethylene reduced sprouting in all varieties. Excellent sprout inhibition was observed in Russet Burbank and Sylvana, both relatively long dormant varieties, and good sprout inhibition in Desiree, Estima, Fianna and Maris Piper. The least inhibition was observed in the very short dormant Solanum phureja cultivar, Mayan Gold. Although sprout inhibition appeared more pronounced in long dormant cultivars there were exceptions, notably Marfona, which is long dormant but in which sprouting was only weakly inhibited by ethylene.

Previous studies had found that ethylene reduces the dormant period of a potato. However, in this study, no correlation was discerned between ethylene use and observed dormancy in any variety. After 30 weeks’ storage, there was little difference in sprout length between ‘full term ethylene treatment’ and ‘treatment since dormancy break’. This suggested that initiating ethylene treatment at dormancy break, as measured by 10% eye movement, was as effective as treating with ethylene throughout the storage period. However, in the long dormant varieties, Marfona, Russet Burbank and Sylvana, there was a reduction in the incidence of sprouting in ethylene treatments at transfer, indicating that ethylene apparently increases the duration before dormancy break in these cultivars.


The project resulted in the publications:

  • Foukaraki, S. G., G. A. Chope, and L. A. Terry. 1-MCP application before continuous ethylene storage suppresses sugar accumulation in the UK-grown potato cultivar Marfona Acta horticulturae (2012).
  • Foukaraki, S. G., et al. "Effect of the transition between ethylene and air storage on post-harvest quality in six UK-grown potato cultivars." Journal of Horticultural Science & Biotechnology 89(6) (2014): 599-606.
  • Ordaz-Ortiz, José Juan, Sofia Foukaraki, and Leon Alexander Terry. "Assessing temporal flux of plant hormones in stored processing potatoes using high definition accurate mass spectrometry." Horticulture Research 2 (2015).

The PhD thesis is available from Cranfield University: Foukaraki, Sofia. "Storage of potatoes: effects of ethylene and 1-MCP on potato tuber quality and biochemistry" (2012).

The final report of the trials completed at SBCSR is provided below.

Project code:
01 August 2008 - 31 July 2011
AHDB Potatoes
Project leader:
Leon Terry


R412 Final report_0

About this project

To provide a greater understanding of the variation in biochemical and physiological changes occurring in different potato varieties after exposure to ethylene.