INSIDERSPotato Growth Regulators and Sprout InhibitorsWhether You Want To or Not, Let’s Talk Emissions

Whether You Want To or Not, Let’s Talk Emissions


Agriculture accounts for about 12 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. As an industry, we can either wait for emissions reduction policy to be mandated upon us, or we can proactively tackle what is already an environmental and public perception problem.

Crop production generates greenhouse gas emissions (mostly carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) in multiple ways, the biggest sources being fertilizer manufacturing and use, and fuel burning by machinery. While there’s currently much more attention on farmers’ in-field emissions, emissions don’t stop when crops come out of the ground.

Whereas potatoes’ carbon footprint during the growing season is both bad (emissions) and good (fields can act as a carbon sink), their footprint is only negative in storage. In addition to requiring energy to control the climate and achieve air movement inside the storage, potatoes release C02 as they respire.

Lowering potatoes’ carbon footprint during storage requires a multi-pronged approach.

First, look at storage buildings themselves. A drafty, outdated building with inefficient temperature control and air movement equipment is both expensive and an unreasonable source of unnecessary emissions.

Next, consider storage management. Any practices that work against rather than with nature – whether that’s not taking advantage of natural cooling on cool days or managing dormancy reactively rather than proactively — increase the energy required and emissions produced.

Finally, and most critically, take a hard look at the products used in-storage and how they are applied.

Most producers still rely exclusively on CIPC to control sprouting. From an emissions standpoint, a much better option is a 1,4-DMN-based product (sold as 1,4SIGHT for processors and table stock and 1,4SEED for seedstock). Rather than simply controlling sprouting, 1,4SIGHT and 1,4SEED trigger enzymes in tubers that help with water loss and maintain tuber turgidity, supporting field-fresh quality. Tubers that retain water require less added storage humidity and, correspondingly, less electricity. Customers also report that piles treated with a 1,4-DMN product appear ‘calmer’, respiring less and, therefore, releasing less C02.

Storage management products (including 1,4SIGHT, 1,4SEED and/or CIPC) need to be fogged through a pile. Unfortunately, traditional propane or diesel foggers produce significant off-gas. Ask your custom applicator for a better option: the E-Fresh fresh air applicator, which relies on electricity and produces an entirely clean heat.

In the coming years, government and consumers will almost certainly place increasing pressure on producers to decrease emissions. For the good of the environment and marketplace, let’s start now.

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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.