Ethylene can provide potato producers with a viable sprout-control solution in a range of situations, with one large potato processing company already using an ethylene delivery system in all of its medium- to long-term stores. Adam Clarke of Farmers Weekly in the UK reports.
Ethylene is a naturally occurring plant growth regulator and, when maintained at suitable levels in store, inhibits the elongation of sprouts.
But like other sprout-control options, it has not gained a strong foothold in the market because of the availability, efficacy and low cost of CIPC treatments over many years.
There has also been the worry that ethylene has a negative impact on processing quality, with treatment potentially giving rise to increased reducing sugars and as a result, darker fry colour.
There is a perception that because ethylene is a gas it is completely unsuitable for use in old, leaky stores, as storekeepers are unlikely to be able to maintain suitable concentrations for adequate sprout control.
On the issue of cost, ethylene is now a much more attractive option for sprout suppression for long-term storage, with spearmint oil and DMN (dimethylnaphthalene) much more costly on a per-tonne basis.
Dutch company Restrain offers a portable plug-and-play generator that turns liquid ethanol product Restrain Fuel into ethylene gas. The Restrain system’s major advantage is its flexibility and ease of use.
Users lease the portable unit with ethylene sensor and simply situate it appropriately in the store, plug it into a 240v electricity supply and fuel supply, and leave it to run on the desired programme. McCain Foods (GB) is using the Restrain delivery system on almost all its main storage varieties, including Maris Piper and Royal
Northumberland-based Biofresh offers its Ethylene Management Unit (EMU), which is permanently installed in the store and runs off a standard 13amp electrical supply. The EMU then feeds bottled ethylene gas product Biofresh Safestore into the storage area from a storage cage, which must be located on hardstanding outside the building.
With one system able to service any size of store or multiple stores, costs can be spread across increased tonnage. Bottled gas is then supplied to the user.