Ethylene is a natural plant hormone that plays a significant role in the ripening and senescence (ageing) of fruits and vegetables. While it has positive effects on the ripening of some fruits, it can have adverse consequences when it comes to storing certain produce, including potatoes.
Ethylene and Sprouting
Ethylene acts as a signaling molecule in plants, coordinating various physiological processes, including ripening, flowering, and seed germination. In the case of potatoes, ethylene exposure can trigger the sprouting process. As potatoes age, they naturally produce ethylene, which encourages the formation of sprouts from the eyes (bud-like structures) on the surface of the tubers.
Produce Emitting Ethylene
Several fruits and vegetables are known to produce and release ethylene gas during their ripening stages. Notable examples include apples, bananas, tomatoes, avocados, and peaches. These fruits can emit significant amounts of ethylene, especially as they ripen.
Potatoes are sensitive to ethylene, and even small amounts of this gas can accelerate the sprouting process. Storing potatoes near ethylene-producing fruits or vegetables can lead to premature sprouting, reducing their quality and shelf life. Therefore, it’s essential to keep potatoes away from these ethylene-emitting items during storage.
Onions and Ethylene
While onions can emit ethylene, they do so at lower levels compared to fruits like apples and bananas. Nevertheless, it’s still a good practice to store onions separately from potatoes. This precaution ensures that any minimal ethylene produced by onions does not negatively impact the potatoes’ storage life.
To prevent ethylene exposure and sprouting in potatoes, consider the following storage recommendations:
Store potatoes in a separate, well-ventilated container or drawer.
If possible, keep potatoes in a dedicated root cellar or cool pantry away from other produce.
Avoid placing potatoes in close proximity to ripening fruits or vegetables, especially apples, bananas, and other ethylene-producing items.
By carefully managing storage conditions and avoiding ethylene exposure, you can extend the storage life of your potatoes and minimize the risk of premature sprouting. This will help you maintain a fresh and reliable supply of potatoes throughout the year, whether you’re a home gardener or a commercial grower.