Research taking place at Harper Adams University has been featured in an article in The Vegetable Farmer.
The research is looking at reducing tuber weight loss during long-term storage through treating the tubers at store loading with a surface treatment.
An initial small experiment has been carried out at Harper Adams by a visiting scientist Rudy Godoi from Brazil. This work indicated that plant oil formulated as a spray product can slow tuber weight loss.
In the article, Professor Peter Kettlewell said: “Work on mitigating drought has shown us that spraying a plant with polymers can temporarily reduce water loss and this knowledge could give us a head start”.
“We now need to find out whether this might be a useful strategy for store managers who have to take the crop through from lifting until the following summer.
“This can be very costly for growers as a typical store might hold 1,500 tonnes of potatoes, and the normal weight loss amounts to about 75 tonnes less to sell out of store.
“Therefore, assuming an average price of £200 per tonne, this can result in £15,000 literally evaporating.”
At Harper Adams University, research into plant surface treatments has been conducted for the past 24 years and has successfully improved yields of crops of wheat and oil seed rape by reducing water loss in dry weather."
The university has now teamed up with Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research to see if the same technology could also be used with potatoes.
Current commercial plant surface treatments are expensive and derived from a tree resin. For potatoes, a cheaper and more food-friendly product would be beneficial and, so the research will look at whether vegetable oil sprays might be effective.