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Oregon researchers get $2 million to stop organic potatoes from spoiling

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(The Center Square) – Oregon State University researchers received a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create better ways of preventing stored potatoes from sprouting, especially in organic farming.

It comes at a time when organic products are becoming more popular in the United States.

“The organic potato industry cannot depend on traditional chemical anti-sprouting treatments since synthetic chemicals are banned in certified organic,” Valtcho Jeliazkov of OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences said.

Oregon, Washington, and Idaho produce over 60% of potatoes grown in the United States; potato cultivation in the Pacific Northwest is a $2.2 billion industry.

Since the organic market is growing, spoilage and issues with storage life have become more important, Jeliazkov said.

“Sprouting diminishes marketable qualities such as appearance, taste, and texture, and decreased storage life translates to financial setbacks,” the school said.

Chemical treatments, including chlorpropham (CIPC), are usually applied to potatoes to prevent sprouting.

“CIPC is cost-effective but has come under scrutiny as a potential health and environmental hazard, leading to its recent ban in the European Union,” the school said.

Natural products have been used to prevent sprouting in organic potato storage. However, they are less efficient and more expensive than CIPC.

Additionally, Jeliazkov’s lab “is dedicated to innovating new products and technologies to manage potato sprouting in organic systems and has already studied around 200 different plant essential oils for their anti-sprouting effects,” the report said.

Kyriakos Stylianou, assistant professor of chemistry at the OSU College of Science, will work alongside Jeliazkov on the anti-sprouting project.

“We aim to find strategies to control the gradual release of these oils, thus prolonging the inhibitory effects on sprouting,” Stylianou said. “The polymers will be shaped as hollow beads capable of retaining essential oils and prepared as microemulsions in Adam Alani’s College of Pharmacy lab. Our team will experimentally optimize several conditions to tune the size of these beads, and we will spray lots of potatoes and investigate the impact on sprouting.”

The toxicity experiments to determine the safety of various potato treatments will be carried out by Robyn Tanguay, professor of environmental and molecular toxicology in the College of Agricultural Sciences, and associate professor Lisa Truong.

OSU received the grant funding through the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture via the Organic Agricultural Research and Extension Initiative.

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