Oregon State University researchers have been awarded a $2 million grant by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to explore methods to prevent sprouting in stored organic potatoes, a significant component of the $2.2 billion potato industry in the Pacific Northwest.
The challenge lies in finding effective and cost-efficient alternatives to traditional chemical treatments, which are frowned upon by both the European Union and the organic market. With organic food sales surpassing $60 billion in the U.S. last year, the demand for sustainable solutions is growing. Valtcho Jeliazkov, part of OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences, noted the limitations of current natural products in terms of effectiveness and cost compared to synthetic chemicals.
The research team is examining 200 different plant oils for their anti-sprouting properties, and the University of Tennessee is collaborating to test tuber reactions to any treatments devised by OSU. As the organic market expands, addressing the financial implications of spoilage and reduced storage life becomes increasingly important for the organic potato industry, where sprouting negatively affects appearance, taste, texture, and overall marketability.