We are investigating dormancy and sprouting in potatoes and onions so that the use of current chemical inhibitors of sprouting can be avoided or considerably reduced.

A major commercial problem in the potato and onion industries is loss of crop value and quality due to untimely postharvest sprouting. In the UK, storage waste for both crops is between 3-25%.

Chemical inhibitors of sprouting such as chlorpropham (CIPC) and maleic hydrazide are UK industry standards. However, they are increasingly considered undesirable by consumers and regulators alike.

We are part of a consortium using cutting-edge technologies to develop genetic, molecular, biochemical markers of postharvest life in potatoes and onions. The key is to be able to identify specific mechanisms in both potatoes and onions that prolong dormancy. Once identified, storage technologies can be designed to exploit these mechanisms, and new cultivars bred that respond more strongly to positive postharvest controls.

Progress update

This research has led to additional funding being secured, as well as additional research from industry.