INSIDERSPotato Growth Regulators and Sprout InhibitorsLet’s Get Political — It’s Time to Talk about Sustainability in Potato...

Let’s Get Political — It’s Time to Talk about Sustainability in Potato Storage Treatment


Let me just lay it out there — I’m frustrated. Much more importantly, farmers are frustrated too. Farmers are being pushed from all sides to produce more sustainably. They’re making every effort to do exactly that: as people who depend on the land for their work and life, farmers daily prove their stewardship and care. Unfortunately, our regulatory system isn’t making the move towards sustainability easy for them.

CIPC has been the potato industry’s go-to sprout control for more than half a century. When it was discovered 60 years ago, it was a wonder: a game changer that enabled long-term tuber storage for the first time. Yes, with 98 per cent sprout control, it works like a darn.

While its efficacy hasn’t changed, the world has drastically changed around it. CIPC is now deregulated in the EU and banned in Japan. Whether North America follows suit remains to be seen. Arguably CIPC’s biggest drawback is its residue, which contaminates storage structures for decades. CIPC residue is so persistent that it’s even detectable deep inside a bin’s concrete floor years after application. Residue is a critically important consideration looking forward, not only to retain market access to countries that no longer accept CIPC, but also to prepare for a changing market reality here at home.

There are other options that carry no environmental contamination downside. 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, working via true dormancy control. Naturally occurring, they work hormonally by triggering the production of natural dormancy enhancing enzymes inside the tuber. 1,4SIGHT and 1,4SEED also offer important secondary benefits, including decreased moisture loss and less bruising. (Note: bio-controls that aren’t 1,4-DMN-based also exist. While they only offer sprout control and no secondary benefits, they’re still much more sustainable than CIPC).

Here’s where the frustration comes in:

While bio-controls are a proven, effective, much more sustainable storage solution, they struggle to be recognized and approved both locally and globally.

Regulatory agencies don’t know how to classify and regulate bio-controls, and don’t appear particularly motivated to understand how and why bio-controls are so important to the future of the agriculture industry. The delay starts from the very top: the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s Codex Alimentarius – the ‘Food Code’, which provides the internationally recognized guidelines for food production – has not yet considered or approved dormancy enhancing bio-controls, likely due at least partially to staffing constraints. It could be some time before bio-control approval is considered, since Codex meets just once a year and only selects a few new products to add to their list of recommended options. Without Codex approval, many countries err on the side of over-caution. All countries have their own import tolerances levels for all products, this is an even more lengthy process then Codex.

Bio-controls are absolutely necessary for agriculture to achieve a meaningful move towards sustainability. It’s not overstating the situation to say the future of farming depends on sustainable practices, made possible in part by bio-control products

As an entire industry, we need to push the discussion about bio-controls forward. Industry organizations, growers, processors, and end users all need to stand up and be heard in favour of these critical tools. We have a better option — it’s time we’re able to use it.

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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.