It’s been a tough couple years to be a potato producer in many parts of Canada. Harvest 2019 was memorably bad, the rain, snow and cold which interrupted digging in most Canadian potato fields didn’t just lead to unhappy farmers, it led to stressed tubers too. In 2020, many farmers, especially those in the Maritimes, were disappointed by the weather for the second year in a row — unusually hot and dry conditions through the second half of the growing season meant potatoes, again, came out of the ground stressed. Unfortunately, tubers compromised by any form of stress start pushing sprouts far earlier in the storage season than tubers grown and harvested in optimal conditions. In years like this one, when sprouting is going to be a particularly big issue, it pays to know how to help your stressed crop hold its value through storage.
Sprouts could more correctly be called spouts, since each sprout is like a little blowhole through which moisture and energy escape. How costly is sprouting? I’ve seen piles shrink by up to 15 per cent once dormancy breaks and sprouting begins.
There are alternatives to watching your pile sprout away though.
1,4ZAP is a biocontrol product which delivers 95 to 100 per cent burn back on sprouting. Unlike other rescue products available on the market, 1,4ZAP doesn’t have a scent issue and is safe for workers. In fact, no personal protective equipment is required just 24 hours after a custom thermal fogging application. 1,4ZAP can be fogged at the same time as 1,4SIGHT to manage peeps and extend shelf life at the same time.
Sprout control options are fairly new to the market. 1,4ZAP was introduced to the U.S. market in 2016, and only came to Canada in September 2019. I’m pleased to already see good uptake of 1,4 ZAP in Western Canada. Out east, however, uptake has been slower to grow. I expect this to change, and likely sooner rather than later. More and more, processors are focusing on (and paying bonuses for) quality. While processors will accept up to inch and a half sprouts, they will increasingly offer bonuses for completely clean tubers. Producers who try 1,4ZAP will quickly realize the salable weight benefits of good sprout management.
Are tough later-season conditions a new reality for Canadian potato production? I sure hope not. But, since nature always has a few wildcards up her sleeve, I’m relieved we have new options for maintaining quality through storage.
This story has been updated to include the language: biocontrol product. Previously it was referred to as a naturally occurring hormone.