Potato Sprout Suppression Using Essential Oils: History
Please note this is an old version of this entry, which may differ significantly from the current revision.
Subjects: Agronomy

Potato sprouting during storage is a major problem that leads to lost revenue and food waste. Essential oils can effectively suppress sprouting during storage although their effectiveness depends on potato cultivar, chosen essential oil, storage conditions, and application schemes.

  • Potato storage
  • Sprout suppression
  • Essential oils
  • Organic agriculture

1. Introduction

The domestication of potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) occurred over 8000 years ago in the Andean region of South America [1]. The Columbian Exchange introduced the potato to Europe, from which it spread to Asia and North America. Potato is currently the fourth largest crop after maize, wheat, and rice, and is cultivated in over 100 countries [2]. Potato plays an important role in global food security, reducing world hunger, and contributes to a balanced human diet and increased human health [3][4].
Given so many individuals’ dependence on potatoes to meet their daily caloric needs, potato storage is crucial to ensure adequate supplies for consumption and seed. However, potato sprouting during storage is a major problem that leads to lost revenue and increased amounts of food waste [4]. Potato sprouting during storage plays a significant role in these losses, particularly when potatoes are stored in warm and humid climates which is often the case in developing countries [5].
Once harvested, potatoes may first undergo a “pre-storage” or curing phase where they are stored at 95% humidity between 10 and 15 °C for two weeks [2]. This phase allows potatoes to heal their peels after potentially being damaged during harvest while also allowing the potatoes to dry. Following pre-storage, potatoes are stored at low temperatures in piles or crates for periods ranging from several weeks to many months during which additional chemical or physical methods of sprout suppression may be applied prior to dormancy break [6].
Immediately following harvest, potatoes are in a naturally dormant state and will not sprout. However, the length of this innate dormancy is highly cultivar-dependent, and even the longest periods of innate dormancy generally do not last as long as is required by processors and overall markets [2]. New models are emerging to predict potato dormancy length and forecast sprouting to inform storage management decisions, but sprouting is still a significant challenge [7].
Generally, dormancy in plants is a biological state in which plant growth is decreased or suspended even if the environmental conditions are favorable [8][9][10]. The dormancy period in potato is characterized by the absence of visible sprout growth and is under environmental, physiological, and hormonal control [9][11].
Sprouting in potato begins at the end of the dormancy period or when this period is interrupted by exogenous factors [10]. Control of sprouting during storage is necessary in order to prevent reductions in tuber quality and formation of toxic alkaloids, thereby eliminating food waste [9][11][12]. Potato sprouting involves the buildup of chlorophyll beneath the peel, a process known as “greening” [13]. As chlorophyll presence in potatoes is associated with solanine accumulation, an alkaloid that can be toxic to humans, green potatoes are considered inedible and become food waste [1]. Even sprouting without greening is undesirable as sprouting is accompanied by higher respiration rates resulting in potatoes that are smaller and more wrinkled [14].
Storage temperature and humidity level are the most critical factors regulating dormancy break during potato storage [15]. Storage between 8–12 °C at 85–90% relative humidity is the most appropriate and popular method for maintaining processing potato quality during long-term storage (up to 9 months) [14]. However, these conditions cannot prolong the dormancy period indefinitely, and once the natural dormancy period of the tubers has ended, storage temperatures of 8–12 °C allow for sprouting and sprout elongation [14]. Cold temperature storage will also alter sugar content, increasing glucose concentrations which cause products to fry dark resulting in unacceptable potato product color and economic losses [16]. Moreover, facility owners may lack the capital to install, run, or maintain cooling systems [17]. Other novel means of physical sprout suppression involve microwave irradiation [18], gamma irradiation [19], ultraviolet irradiation [20], pressure treatments [21], and treatment with magnetic fields [22] to physically damage the sprout buds, although these methods may quickly become expensive [2]. Furthermore, gamma irradiation is not allowed in certified organic systems. Therefore, chemical means of sprout control provide an effective and less expensive approach and have become necessary in maintaining potato quality during storage, no matter the destination market. Indeed, chemical sprout suppressants have been the most widely used method for potato sprout suppression in the last five decades.

2. Essential Oils (EOs) for Sprout Control

2.1. Essential Oils (EOs) for Sprout Control in Fresh Potatoes

To delay or minimize sprouting, potatoes destined for the fresh market are generally stored in the dark at temperatures between 3–7 °C and 85–90% relative humidity [17]. While these temperatures are effective in inhibiting sprout growth, they are not sufficient on their own to prevent sprout elongation, especially if potatoes are stored for 6 months or longer. Moreover, sprouting will occur once potatoes are placed in warmer environments such as in stores or consumer pantries [23]. For this reason, sprout suppressants are needed to ensure sprouting inhibition during long term storage and beyond. Table 1 summarizes the impact that various EO application regimens have on potato sprouting during storage. Spearmint (Mentha spicata L.), orange (Citrus × sinensis (L.) Osbeck), caraway (Carum carvi L.), and clove (Syzygium aromaticum (L.) Merr. and L.M. Perry) EOs have all been studied for their effectiveness in suppressing sprout growth in fresh potato storage.
Table 1. The impact of essential oil applications on potato sprouting, yield, and flavor.
Essential Oil Temperature (°C) Combined With Concentration Potato Cultivars Impact on Sprouting References
Garlic (Allium sativum) 20   0.2 mg/mL ‘Favourita’ Reduced tuber sprout growth, and downregulated production of a protein involved in seed germination. [24]
  21–23   2 mL/L ‘Gudene’, ‘Jalene’ Reduced sprouting in ‘Jalene’. [25]
Dill Seed (Anethum graveolens) 5, 10, 15   Not specified ‘Agria’ More effective than spearmint EO although less effective than caraway EO at suppressing sprouting at higher storage temperatures with an effect similar to that of CIPC. [26]
  10   25 mL/kg containing 4% dill seed EO, repeated after 5 weeks ‘Norland’, ‘Snowden’ Dill seed EO completely inhibited sprouting for 15 weeks in both cultivars with similar efficacy to CIPC and maleic hydrazide. [27]
Dill Weed (Anethum graveolens) 20   32.5 mg/L airspace ‘Russet Burbank’, ‘Piccolo’ Reduced sprout growth by 50% over 29 days with effect similar to that of spearmint EO. [28]
Caraway (Carum carvi) 5–7   100 mL/1000 kg every 6 weeks ‘Bintje’ D-carvone derived from caraway EO suppresses sprout growth just as effectively as CIPC for up to 274 days. [29]
  10   25 mL/kg containing 4% D-carvone, repeated after 5 weeks ‘Norland’, ‘Snowden’ D-carvone completely inhibited sprouting for 15 weeks in both cultivars with similar efficacy to CIPC and maleic hydrazide. [27]
  10   25 mL/kg containing 4% caraway EO, repeated after 5 weeks ‘Norland’, ‘Snowden’ Caraway EO completely inhibited sprouting for 15 weeks in both cultivars with similar efficacy to CIPC and maleic hydrazide. [27]
  5, 10, 15   Not specified ‘Agria’ Caraway EO was more effective than spearmint EO, dill EO, and CIPC at suppressing sprout growth at all three temperatures and could inhibit sprout growth for up to 180 days. [26]
  25   Not specified ‘Agria’, ‘Kennebec’ Moderate inhibitory effect on sprouting compared to untreated tubers, but not as strong as peppermint or coriander EOs. [30]
Chenopodium ambrosioides 24   0.7 mL/L airspace Not specified Suppressed sprout growth for up to 10 weeks. [31]
  27   0.7 g/L airspace ‘Russet Burbank’ Suppressed sprout growth for up to 28 days. [32]
Orange (Citrus sinensis) 4.5   100 mL/ton (total 900 mL over 9 months) ‘Maris Piper’, ‘King Edward’, ‘Melody’, ‘Nectar’ Could achieve similar levels of sprout suppression as continuous ethylene, but only if combined with maleic hydrazide. [33]
  8   100 mL/ton every 3 weeks for 5 months ‘Agria’, ‘Verdi’, ‘Innovator’ ARGOS (orange EO) provides good control of sprouting for up to five months compared to a control, although CIPC was more effective. [34]
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) 12   0.5 μL/L airspace ‘Agria’ Stimulated sprouting of tubers. [35]
  12   2 μL/L airspace, every four weeks ‘Agria’ Sprout suppression for up to 3 months, with a weaker effect than CIPC treatment. [35]
  25   230 mL/L of vapor ‘Agria’, ‘Kennebec’ Sprout suppression between 65–95% with an effect significantly stronger than that of caraway EO. [30]
Cymbopogon citratus 27   0.7 g/L airspace ‘Russet Burbank’ Suppressed sprout growth for up to 28 days. [32]
Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martinii) 21–23   2 mL/L ‘Gudene’, ‘Jalene’ Reduced sprouting in ‘Gudene’. [25]
  25   200 μL/desiccator ‘Chipsona’ Seven-day treatment could inhibit sprouting up to 14 days after treatment. [17]
Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus) 10   30 μL/L airspace, repeated after 35 days ‘Atlantic’ Completely suppressed sprout growth for up to 30 days after dormancy break. [36]
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon schoenanthus) 25   200 μL/desiccator ‘Chipsona’ Enhanced sprouting with nearly 100% of eye germination a full day earlier than the control. [17]
Lippia multiflora 24   0.7 mL/L airspace Not specified Suppressed sprout growth for up to 10 weeks. [31]
  27   0.7 g/L airspace ‘Russet Burbank’ Suppressed sprout growth for up to 28 days. [32]
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) Not specified   One pound EO per five tons potato per month ‘Russet Burbank’ Equally effective as spearmint EO (although less effective than CIPC) at sprout suppression. [23]
  8   100 mg/kg ‘Asterix’ Menthol reduced sprout length and number for up to 50 days in non-dormant tubers. [37]
  10   50 ppm/kg every two weeks ‘Asante’, ‘Kenya Mypa’, ‘Shangi’ Suppressed sprouting for 6 or 8 weeks compared to a control depending on cultivar. [38]
  23   50 ppm/kg every two weeks ‘Asante’, ‘Kenya Mypa’, ‘Shangi’ Suppressed sprouting for 8 weeks compared to a control, but sprouts were longer than those on potatoes stored at 10 °C. [38]
  25   155 mL/L of vapor ‘Agria’, ‘Kennebec’ Sprout suppression between 65–95% with an effect significantly stronger than that of caraway EO. [30]
Spearmint (Mentha spicata) Not specified   One pound EO per five tons potato per month ‘Russet Burbank’ Less effective than CIPC treatment, single application can enhance sprouting. [23]
  4.5   60 mL/ton (total 360 mL over 9 months) ‘Maris Piper’, ‘King Edward’, ‘Melody’, ‘Nectar’ Controlled sprouting for all potato cultivars tested, performed equally well as 1,4-DMN and equally if better than CIPC. [33]
  4.5 Ethylene Ethylene 10 ppm, spearmint EO 60 mL/ton (total 180 mL over 9 months) ‘Maris Piper’, ‘King Edward’, ‘Melody’, ‘Nectar’ Acceptable suppression only possible when combined with maleic hydrazide application. [33]
  8   Initial application of 90 mL/ton followed by 30 mL/ton every three weeks or 45 mL/ton every four weeks (360 mL/ton total) ‘Agria’, ‘Verdi’, ‘Innovator’ Biox-M provides good control of sprouting for up to five months compared to a control, although CIPC was more effective. [34]
  8   Not specified ‘Bellini’, ‘Mondial’, ‘Désirée’, ‘Karlena’, ‘Eos’, ‘Nicola’, ‘Rodeo’, ‘Winston’ Monthly applications sufficient to inhibit sprouting in all cultivars tested over six months without significant reductions in salability although very low doses promote earlier axial sprouting, spearmint EO can be washed off with water to nullify its effects. [39]
  7, 9 Ethylene Spearmint EO 60 mL/ton (total 360 mL over six months), continuous ethylene ‘Innovator’, ‘Maris Piper’, ‘Performer’, ‘Royal’, ‘VR808’ Combination achieved better sprout control than either spearmint EO or ethylene alone but effectiveness depends on cultivar, just as effective or more effective at 7 °C than at 9 °C. [40]
  5, 10, 15   Not specified ‘Agria’ Efficacy of spearmint EO on sprouting decreases with increasing storage temperatures. [26]
  20   21.5 mg/L airspace ‘Russet Burbank’, ‘Piccolo’ 50% reduction in sprout growth over a 29-day period. [28]
Black Spruce (Picea mariana) Not specified   25% (w/w) ‘Colomba’ Suppresses sprout growth just as effectively as CIPC over 4 weeks when potatoes are stored at room temperature. [41]
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) 21–23   2 mL/L ‘Gudene’, ‘Jalene’ Reduced sprouting in ‘Jalene’. [25]
Clove (Syzygium aromaticum) Not specified   0.52 lb/5 tons potato ‘Russet Burbank’ Could achieve significant sprout control compared to untreated potatoes for up to 24 weeks. [23]
  Not specified   Initial application at 90 ppm followed by 30 ppm application three weeks later Not specified Achieved acceptable sprout suppression for 60 days. [11]
  8   100 mg/kg ‘Asterix’ Eugenol reduced sprout length and number for up to 50 days in non-dormant tubers. [37]
  10   120 or 240 mg/L airspace ‘Russet Burbank’, ‘Piccolo’ Biox-C application caused high levels of sprouting in the first week followed by bud necrosis and sprout suppression for up to 19 weeks. [28]
  25   200 μL/desiccator ‘Chipsona’ Enhanced sprouting with nearly 100% of eye germination a full day earlier than the control. [17]
Thymus schimperi 21–23   2 mL/L ‘Gudene’, ‘Jalene’ Reduced sprouting in ‘Gudene’. [25]
Ajwain (Trachyspernun ammi) 25   200 μL/desiccator ‘Chipsona’ Seven-day treatment could inhibit sprouting up to 30 days after treatment. [17]
Zingiber officinale 27   0.7 g/L airspace ‘Russet Burbank’ Suppressed sprout growth for up to 28 days, with a stronger effect than C. ambrosioidesL. multiflora, or C. citratus. [32]

2.2. Essential Oils (EOs) for Sprout Control in Processing Potatoes

Storing potatoes for processing markets poses unique challenges due to the need to maintain low levels of reducing sugars. Low storage temperatures can effectively delay sprout development, but also enhance hydrolysis of sucrose in the tuber flesh resulting in higher accumulations of reducing sugars that cause undesirable discoloration during frying [2]. Therefore, unlike fresh market potatoes, which can be stored at 3–7 °C, processing potatoes are stored between 8–13 °C to avoid tissue sweetening and subsequent revenue losses [42]. These higher temperatures necessitate chemical sprout suppressants, while also challenging their efficacy [26][38]. Though many of the EOs used for fresh potato storage are also used for processing potato storage, their efficacy often differs. In addition, EOs from peppermint (Mentha x piperita L.), dill (Anethum graveolens L.), palmarosa (Cymbopogon martini (Roxb.) Wats.), ajwain (Trachyspermum ammi (L.) Sprague ex Turrill), Lippia multifloraChenopodium ambrosioidesCymbopogon citratusZingiber officinale, citronella (Cymbopogon nardus L.), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Thymus schimperi, garlic (Allium sativum L.), and black spruce (Picea mariana Mill.) show potential for use in this industry [17][25][32][36][41].

2.3. Essential Oils (EOs) for Sprout Suppression and Enhancement in Seed Potatoes

2.3.1. Sprout Suppression

As spearmint EO is the most used EO in potato storage, several studies evaluated the effect of spearmint EO on sprout enhancement and subsequent tuber yield. Teper-Bamnolker et al. [39] found that the inhibitory effects of spearmint EO can be nullified by washing treated potatoes with water, after which sprouting resumed within days although with reduced apical dominance. Interestingly, very low doses of spearmint EO may promote earlier axial sprouting [39], and even a single application of spearmint EO can enhance sprouting [23]. These results indicate the importance of repeated spearmint EO applications in prolonged sprout suppression, but also suggest their utility in seed potato sprout enhancement. Spearmint EO application is associated with a concentration-dependent delay in emergence with higher concentrations causing the longest delays with no significant effect on tuber yield [28].

2.3.2. Sprout Enhancement

Sprouting and yield enhancement may be possible with West Indian lemongrass (Cymbopogon schoenanthus Spring.), and clove EO treatments. Shukla et al. [17] showed that lemongrass or clove EO treatment at 25 °C could enhance sprouting relative to a control, with nearly 100% of eye germination occurring a full day earlier than the control. Not only did both the lemongrass and clove EO treated potatoes exhibit more and longer sprouts than the control, these treated tubers also produced significantly higher potato yields, with lemongrass EO treatment resulting in slightly higher yields than clove EO treatment [17]. Quantitative real-time PCR analysis revealed that both clove and lemongrass EO treated potatoes up-regulated genes encoding for ethylene response factor (ERF), auxin-repressed protein (ARP), Aux/IAA proteins (AIP), and ADP-ribosylation factor (ARF), proteins associated with dormancy break in potatoes [17].

3. Limitations of Essential Oils (EOs) and Areas of Future Research

Despite the potential for extensive use of EOs in potato sprout management, their widespread adoption is hampered by the diversity of EO compositions even within a single plant species, the lack of application schemes for various cultivars, and in some cases the high costs associated with their purchase and use. However, the need for standardization of EO composition within a species can be easily adjusted by the traditional EO companies that are usually handling EO between the producers and the end users.
While there is general similarity in the EO chemical profile within a species, the actual concentrations of various EO constituents within a single species can vary greatly, and may also be affected by climatic and soil conditions, season, stage of vegetative cycle, and production practices used [43]. Therefore, more research is needed to identify suitable species, a cultivar or chemotype within a species, and then tune up the production technology.
The effectiveness of an EO treatment on sprout suppression likely depends largely upon its composition and is directly influenced by the concentrations of various compounds within the EO and possibly the ratio between key compounds. As these concentrations can vary greatly, this can lead to difficulties in determining universal application schemes even for a single species. Furthermore, EO efficacy can vary among potato cultivars, with a single EO showing adequate sprout suppression in one cultivar but showing inadequate suppression in another. This makes matching the right EO to an appropriate potato cultivar crucial. The correct concentration also needs to be determined to achieve sprout suppression while minimizing costs.
Finally, EOs can be more expensive than their conventional, synthetic alternatives. Due to the necessity of repeated or continuous applications, many businesses may be unwilling to purchase the quantities necessary to treat thousands of tons of potatoes. Furthermore, the application technology and methodology for various EOs may differ from the existing infrastructure mainly used to apply CIPC, which could entail even greater costs to make the shift [11]. Indeed, the best application method for various EOs will need to be determined, especially for ones that have recently begun to show promise. Despite the potential for new EO products to be developed in the coming years, whether they will be cost effective in commercial settings remains to be seen.

This entry is adapted from 10.3390/su14116382


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