INSIDERSPotato Growth Regulators and Sprout InhibitorsIt’s Time for the Potato Industry to Move Past the 1960s

It’s Time for the Potato Industry to Move Past the 1960s


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 Though a game-changer six decades ago, today it’s – in a word – outdated.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.

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Bill Orr
Bill Orr
Canada Technical Representative, One Four Group - Bill Orr started in the sprout inhibitor application industry quite by accident. After college, he worked for a tree care company and sprout inhibitor applications were its fall area of business. This was before the VFD was introduced into the application process in Canada. After enduring those dirty times cleaning up after applications, Orr continued on for another 14 years in the industry. He quickly moved on to doing applications, then technical training for applicators, next to managing the entire application process, and eventually to owning his own sprout inhibitor application company. His application experience has allowed him to do application in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Orr finds sprout inhibiting a very interesting and unique industry, and he enjoys all the dynamics and challenges it has to offer.