Biochemistry offers options to help reduce huge potato losses in the US

Massive losses in the  number one US vegetable crop, potatoes, aren't only due to pests or drought, they’re due to damage in the handling and storage of potatoes over the nine months of storage they generally undergo on their way to the supermarket as fresh potatoes or as potato chips or fries.

A biochemistry approach that seeks to identify genetic characteristics of the wound healing process in potatoes has had success in a project led by Dylan Kosma, a biochemist in the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources at the University of Nevada, Reno.

In his work, completed as part of the College’s Experiment Station research, Kosma has identified the first transcription factors known to regulate deposition of components that make up the skin that forms during the wound healing process in potatoes.

"We're working on protein transcription factors," he said. "You can think of transcription factors like the main switch in an electric panel or breaker box, with 15 circuits under control of the main switch. Finding the master switch and how it works to switch on the wound healing process in potatoes is key.”

According to an article on unr.edu, One important component of potato tuber wound healing is the deposition of a corky material that makes up a large proportion of “skin” that covers wound sites, suberin. Suberin is a lipid polymer that is produced by all plants and is a major component of wound healing tissues in potatoes. While this wound-healing tissue can be found in nearly every plant, there is still relatively little known about its makeup and function. Even less is known about the genetic controls of wound suberin formation.

In addition to stemming the tide of losses with potatoes, Kosma hopes what they learn in this process will also be applicable to other food crops


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