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 A drafty, outdated building with inefficient temperature control and air movement equipment is both expensive and an unreasonable source of unnecessary emissions.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.