Novel sensing for potato postharvest quality and loss management in bulk storages

Funding Agency: WA USDA/ AMS/ Specialty Crop Block Grant
WSU Investigators: S. Sankaran, L.R. Khot, B. Schroeder


Washington State is a major potato producer in the U.S. However, postharvest potato management is a challenge to stakeholders with bulk storage losses of about 6%. Several diseases affect potato quality during storage. Presently, managers’ lack state-of-art sensing tools to detect and manage storage diseases at early stages. Existing methods involve periodic visible symptom monitoring, air sniffing for anomalies by personnel, plus sparse temperature probes for hot spot monitoring that are somewhat subjective, labor intensive, and inadequate. Thus, we propose to develop novel sensing technologies for early disease detection in bulk-stored potatoes. This will: 1) offer an unprecedented aid for growers to implement appropriate potato rot detection and management practices by manipulating temperature, humidity, and airflow to limit pathogen growth and development; and 2) help reduce the postharvest potato storage losses through early processing. The technology we develop can also be adapted for other specialty crops (e.g. onions) grown in the region. Specific objectives of this project are to investigate portable field asymmetric ion mobile spectrometry, chemosensor, and thermal infrared imaging based sensing modules for trace level volatile biomarkers and anomaly detection associated with potato rots. Our primary focus is on Pythium leak and soft rot, two predominant pathogens associated with potato storage losses. Research will be conducted using Russet Burbank, an industry standard variety for French fries, and Ranger Russet, most vulnerable variety to storage issues.