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OSU potato research seeks to foil spoil

Hai Nguyen
A pile of potatoes.

Potatoes fuel a $2.2 billion industry in the Pacific Northwest. So the USDA’s $2-million award to Oregon State University researchers to keep stored spuds from spoiling shouldn’t be a big surprise.

Organic potatoes are the focus.

Last year, organic food sales in the U.S. exceeded $60 billion.

Historically, chemical treatments have been used to prevent sprouts, but both the European Union and the organic market frown on those.

Valtcho Jeliazkov told KLCC that herein lies the challenge. He’s with OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences, and is on the team studying the issue.

While there are about a dozen natural products on the market, “compared to the synthetic chemicals for storage, for sprout control, these products are first not that effective, and secondly, they’re more expensive,” said Jeliazkov.

He added that as the organic market continues to grow, the financial implications of spoilage and reduced storage life become even more significant.

Sprouting diminishes marketable qualities such as appearance, taste and texture, and decreased storage life translates to financial setbacks.

OSU’s research team is looking at 200 different plant oils for their anti-sprouting properties. The University of Tennessee will help test tuber reactions to any treatments OSU devises.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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