Knowing Your Roots

Archive for October, 2014

Measuring Sugars to Arrive at the Perfect Potato Product

Blog 5

Sugars are a major concern for the potato industry. As consumers, we demand a year-round supply of high quality potatoes to eat.  When processed, we expect the perfect, blond chips and French fries we are addicted to. However, to ensure this year-round supply, tubers must be stored at carefully controlled temperatures and humidity’s for up to 9 months to maintain the balance of sugars needed to ensure acceptable processing quality. This is a major challenge for the industry, as potato tubers are living, breathing entities that seem to have their own agendas when it comes to storing them for longer than they are designed to be kept.

If we store potatoes at temperatures that are too high, the tubers soon realize that it is time for a new year to begin and within a few months they adjust their internal physiology and sugar balance to produce sprouts and start to grow. On the other end of the scale, if we store potatoes at temperatures that are too low, we can slow everything down and store tubers for long periods without sprouting, but only at the expense of disrupting the balance among the complex of sugars that give tubers their characteristic flavors and, worse yet, cause chips and fries to turn dark brown when they are processed! To find the middle ground where we can have long term storage without disrupting the delicate balance of sugars needed for taste and processing, we need tools that enable us to monitor what sugars are present and how these change under different storage conditions.   (more…)

Why would you want to X-ray a potato?

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When you think about how to use new advances in X-ray technology, potato breeding is probably not the first thing that springs to mind. However, scientific researchers at the University of Wisconsin are doing just that to help develop new potato varieties — and to do it faster!  State-of-the art, high- speed X-ray technology is now becoming a routine practice for evaluating potential new potato varieties, because it is faster and much more effective.  Do you remember your last X-ray at the doctor office? It was time-consuming, uncomfortable and expensive.  Not so with potatoes! Every day during harvest, tens of thousands of potatoes are examined in just milliseconds, at virtually no cost!

This technology is possible by incorporating a high speed X-ray imager into the potato-grading line (where potatoes are evaluated after harvest).  This imager takes an X-ray image of each tuber as it passes through the machine at a high rate of speed.  From that image,  computers calculate just about anything that you ever wanted to know about that tuber, including its weight, length, width, height and shape; most remarkably, it can determine if there are defects on the outside and even the inside of the tuber. This is a huge improvement on previous technology in both speed and expense, which is akin to doctors being able to take the X-rays they need as you drive past the clinic!   (more…)

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