Skip to navigation Skip to content

Research underway to discover causes of senescent sweetening in potato storage

Potatoes (c) James Hutton Institute
"We aim to provide predictive markers of sweetening onset, and identify candidate genes and markers to accelerate the development of sweetening-resistant varieties"

Researchers at the James Hutton Institute and partner organisations are working to understand the mechanisms behind senescent sweetening, a problem responsible for considerable losses of potato crops during storage, particularly in the processing market.

Speaking at the Scottish Society for Crop Research (SSCR) Potato Winter Meeting 2019, Dr Rob Hancock, based within the Institute’s Cell and Molecular Sciences group, said: “This AHDB-funded project aims to define the biochemical pathways associated with senescent sweetening.

“We’ll do this by identifying key genes influencing the accumulation of sugars and testing the hypothesis that the issue is linked to tuber ageing and senescence.

“By the end of the project, we aim to provide predictive markers of sweetening onset, and identify candidate genes and markers to accelerate the development of sweetening-resistant varieties.”

Sugar accumulation in stored potato tubers is a problem for the processing industry due to the development of a dark fry colour which is negatively perceived by consumers. Sugars also react with the amino acid asparagine during high-temperature processing (frying, roasting) leading to the formation of the neurotoxin and potential carcinogen acrylamide.

While there is no evidence to suggest that the low levels formed in processed potato products are harmful to health, the industry adopts the precautionary principle and aims to minimise exposure wherever possible.

Also during the meeting, Hutton scientist Dr Abdellah Barakate presented an overview of the use of gene editing to avoid undesirable traits in potato crops, such as the formation of acrylamide and browning.

“The latest crop improvement technique known as CRISPR-based gene editing is a powerful tool that allows precise changes to the genome resulting in the elimination of undesired genes or gain of new functions.

“This novel technique is fast, cheap and easy to implement with huge applications in crop improvements and gene therapy. At unprecedented speed, some of these potential applications have already been demonstrated by making genetic variations that are indistinguishable from the naturally occurring ones,” he said.

There were also presentations on the topics of PCN in Scotland and the potential impact on seed production; free-living nematodes and soil health; precision agriculture; peer-to-peer learning developments; cover crops; and an overview of James Hutton Limited’s molecular diagnostics. See a full line-up below:

  • Potato Cyst Nematodes in Scotland: are we running out of land for seed production?
    Jon Pickup, SASA
  • Free-living Nematodes and Soil Health
    Roy Neilson, James Hutton Institute
  • Horizon 2020 Project PLAID (Peer-to-peer Learning: Accessing Information Through Demonstration)
    Claire Hardy, James Hutton Institute
  • Recent Developments in Precision Agriculture
    Marcus Travers, SoilEssentials
  • Cover crop research
    Blair McKenzie, James Hutton Institute
  • Investigating Mechanisms of Senescent Sweetening in Potato Storage: towards breeding markers and management solutions
    Rob Hancock, James Hutton Institute
  • Potato Molecular Diagnostics and the James Hutton Limited Breeding programme
    Vanessa Young, James Hutton Limited
  • Application of CRISPR/Cas9 Gene Editing in Potato
    Abdellah Barakate, James Hutton Institute

More information from: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).


Printed from /news/research-underway-discover-causes-senescent-sweetening-potato-storage on 26/03/19 10:32:35 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.