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Scientists, industry and retailers to tackle potato greening problem

Potato tubers affected by greening (c) James Hutton Institute
“We aim to identify conditions for light-induced tuber greening, which in turn will inform the design of prototype packaging film to reduce greening during storage and in store.

A research consortium including the James Hutton Institute and the University of Southampton is to tackle the problem of greening in potato, the world’s fourth most important food crop, in a drive to reduce field and supply chain losses whilst strengthening global food security.

Exposure of potato tubers to light either in the field, in storage, on store shelves or at home induces the formation of a green pigmentation on the surface of the potato. The phenomenon, called ‘greening’, is directly linked to 116,000 tonnes of potato waste each year, according to a report by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), and associated estimated annual losses of £60m to UK retailers.

The green pigment indicates the formation of chlorophyll, a compound responsible for a plant’s ability to make food and carry out photosynthesis. Greening remains a significantly negative factor in consumer purchases, where a 1% increase in sales is worth £3m per annum to producers. In-field losses due to greening also cost the industry £37m each year.

Dr Mark Taylor, senior researcher at the James Hutton Institute and project lead investigator, said the project will bring together partners spanning the entire food chain, from production and packaging to major retailers.

“We aim to identify conditions for light-induced tuber greening, which in turn will inform the design of prototype packaging film to reduce greening during storage and in store. Furthermore these experiments will, with recently developed potato breeding approaches, be used to identify markers for genes associated with reduced greening providing the foundation of a longer term strategy to produce new non-greening potato varieties.”

Dr Haruko Okamoto, who is leading the University of Southampton part of the programme, commented: “The opportunity to work closely with the users of our research is exciting and we hope will lead to some rapid progress in solving this food waste problem.”

The 18-month research project is partly funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, and features the participation of commercial partners such as Amcor Flexibles UK Ltd, Branston Ltd, Tesco PLC and Waitrose Ltd.

Notes to editors:

The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship across a wide range of subjects in engineering, science, social sciences, health and humanities. With over 24,000 students, over 6000 staff, and an annual turnover in excess of £500 million, the University of Southampton is acknowledged as one of the country's top institutions for engineering, computer science and medicine. We combine academic excellence with an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to research, supporting a culture that engages and challenges students and staff in their pursuit of learning. The University is also home to a number of world-leading research centres including the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, the Optoelectronics Research Centre, the Institute for Life Sciences, the Web Science Trust and Doctoral training Centre, the Centre for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, the Southampton Statistical Sciences Research Institute and is a partner of the National Oceanography Centre at the Southampton waterfront campus.

Innovate UK is the UK’s innovation agency. It works with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive the science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy. For further information visit  

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Printed from /news/scientists-industry-and-retailers-tackle-potato-greening-problem on 22/02/24 01:53:28 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.