Study points to added value from potato crops

Researchers at the James Hutton Institute are investigating the feasibility of extracting a high-value compound present in the foliage and stems of potato plants that is ordinarily treated as a waste by-product.

Potatoes: stems and foliage could also be harvested to extract solanesol
Potatoes: stems and foliage could also be harvested to extract solanesol

Solanesol appears to have health properties such as anti-bacterial, anti-inflammation and anti-ulcer effects, besides being employed in the manufacture of coenzyme Q10, found in many cosmetics and drugs. Potato plants produce more than five tonnes of stems and foliage per hectare, which may contain up to 40kg of solanesol. It is also found in other solanaceous crops, including tomatoes and sweet peppers.

Dr Mark Taylor, senior researcher at the Scottish research institute's cell and molecular sciences group and co-author of the study, said: "We believe there is considerable potential for harvesting the foliage and extracting added value from the potato crop. Our combined approaches offer new insights into how solanesol accumulates and gives insight on developing a bio-refinery approach."

Professor Derek Stewart, research theme leader at the institute and another co-author, added: "We are working to mine the wonderful diversity of natural compounds in wild and cultivated potato for bio-activity against a range of degenerative conditions as well as for potential pain relief, while adding value to crop co-products previously thought of as waste." The research is supported in part by the Scottish Government but mainly by the EU. The paper was published in Frontiers in Plant Science.

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