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ARS Seeks Partner to Help Stop Potato Sprouting

By Kim Kaplan
December 10, 2001

Two treatments developed by the Agricultural Research Service to control sprouting in stored potatoes could be on the market if a business partner can be found to sign a patent license or cooperative agreement to commercialize the technology.

ARS, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief in-house scientific research agency, identified the two chemicals as potential alternatives to the synthetic chemical CIPC, the most widely used sprout inhibitor registered for U.S. post-harvest application to potatoes. Sprouting control is required on more than half of the $2.5-billion U.S. potato crop, but the use of CIPC is becoming increasingly regulated.

Both of these patented control methods are based on readily available compounds.

One is based on jasmonates, natural compounds responsible for the characteristic aroma of jasmine flowers. Jasmonates are already used in the fragrance industry and as flavorings in food. Only minute amounts of the compound are needed to control sprouting, and the treatment also slightly improves the color of potatoes processed into potato chips and French fries.

As natural compounds, jasmonates could be especially useful for the premium organic potato market, which does not use CIPC, according to research chemist Edward C. Lulai, with the ARS Sugarbeet and Potato Research Laboratory in Fargo, N.D. Lulai helped developed the two treatments.

The other new control method involves the use of certain aromatic acids to delay spouting.

Lulai says both control methods could be economically feasible, especially for niche markets such as organically grown potatoes. But just as with CIPC when it was introduced, exact application protocols need to be worked out and routine food safety approval issues addressed.

More information about these and other ARS patented technology to control sprouting and dry rot in stored potatoes is available on the ARS Office of Technology Transfer web site by searching under “Available Technologies.”