PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University has signed a licensing agreement with the American Vanguard Corp. to commercialize a new class of potato sprout inhibitors developed by Rick Knowles, professor of horticulture and landscape architecture and scientist in WSU’s Agricultural Research Center.
“This research has the potential to have major impact on the way that the potato growers in Washington and the world control sprouting,” said Keith Jones, WSU director of Intellectual Property.
The technology involves the application of organic compounds after potatoes are harvested and at the onset of sprouting. Many of the compounds occur naturally in plants and are of low toxicity. Some are registered as food additives and are used in the food and fragrance industries.
In testing, WSU researchers have found that one application inhibits sprouting from three to four months. Two applications inhibit sprouting for more than a year. Applications leave little residue.
About half of the 9.4 billion pounds of potatoes grown in Washington each year are stored to provide a continuing supply to fresh markets and processing plants. Most varieties begin to sprout three to four months after harvest. Sprouting hastens deterioration and reduces overall quality.
Growers and processors in the Pacific Northwest spend an estimated $7 million and $9 million annually to inhibit sprouting of stored potatoes, according to Knowles.
The new technology would provide an alternative for synthetic compounds currently used to inhibit sprouting and possibly facilitate expansion of fresh and processed product exports, particularly to markets with strict chemical residue limits.
The WSU researchers recently received a U.S. patent on their finding and are in the process of determining optimal application protocols for the major varieties of potatoes grown in the Northwest.
American Vanguard, headquartered in Newport Beach, Calif., is a diversified specialty and agricultural products company that develops and markets crop protection, turf and ornamental products and public health insecticides.
The technology has been patented in the United States. A Canadian patent is pending. The WSU Agricultural Research Center, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Washington Potato Commission funded the research.
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