As potatoes come out of the ground across the country, I want to take a moment to applaud producers on the big improvements they’re making towards growing-season production sustainability.
Our industry isn’t only delivering increased sustainability in the field, it’s marking big changes in attitude at every level of the production chain, from producers to processors to retailers. Committing to sustainability is a necessary reality today, both for the health of the land we grow on and the continued marketability of our product. I’m proud to be part of an industry that is stepping up. Unfortunately, we’ve so far only considered half of the equation. While we’re well on route to a positive future during the growing season, our industry remains worryingly stuck in the 1960s during the second phase of the potato production cycle: storage season.
CIPC was introduced as an herbicide way back in 1951. By the mid-1960s, farmers were already applying it as an extremely effective sprout inhibitor: a huge new asset that allowed them to, for the first time, deliver high quality potatoes nearly year-round. Though a game-changer six decades ago, today it’s – in a word – outdated.
Because of its significant residue, contamination and worker safety issues, CIPC is deregulated in the European Union and banned in Japan. I anticipate North America could follow suit, potentially in the relatively near future, as has already happened with many other broad-spectrum chemicals.
“But how can we possibly store potatoes without CIPC?!” I’ve heard countless producers ask. In fact, easily and arguably far better.
Bio-controls – specifically 1,4-DMN-based products including 1,4SIGHT and 1,4SEED – are highly effective (+95 per cent) at managing sprouting and peeping without any contamination, residue and worker safety concerns. True dormancy enhancers rather than sprout suppressants, 1,4SIGHT and 1,4SEED mimic naturally occurring potato hormones, triggering the production of tubers’ own dormancy enhancing enzymes. As secondary benefits, the dormancy enhancement also results in decreased moisture loss and less bruising, increasing quality at shipping.
I was excited to attend the Potato Sustainability Alliance’s Sustainability Symposium in July. The attendees, from primary producers to major players like McCains, Simplot, Sysco and Little Potato Company, proved themselves among the most forward-thinking people in the potato value chain. Though, even there, most of the talk focused on the growing season, I noticed a small but growing awareness of storage season sustainability too. Change may be slow in coming from inside industry, but a growing few are starting to recognize that we need to choose storage season change before change is chosen for us.