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Flame-sterilized potato seed cutter: A potential solution for minimizing disease spread during seed cutting operations

Written by Dr. Chakradhar Mattupalli

Potatoes are vegetatively propagated and seed cutting is a common practice followed by growers to increase seed piece availability for planting. However, this practice poses a risk for mechanical transmission of diseases caused by several bacterial, fungal and viral pathogens. For example, bacterial ring rot is a zero-tolerance disease and the disease spread can occur during seed cutting operations.

Currently, growers sanitize seed cutting equipment between seed lots using chlorine or quaternary ammonium compounds. Although this practice is effective in containing disease spread between seed lots, there is an invariable risk for disease transmission while cutting tubers within a seed lot. To overcome this bottleneck, a flame-sterilized potato seed cutter was conceived and developed by Tyler Thompson (former Farm Manager at San Luis Valley Research Center) in association with Ronald Price (Research Farm Technician at San Luis Valley Research Center), which is a modification of the current potato seed cutting technology.

The core concept behind this invention involves heating seed cutter discs (using a fuel mixture of acetylene and compressed air) to around 250°F for effectively killing all pathogens thereby limiting disease spread. A patent application describing this innovative technology was also submitted to CSUVentures. The Plant Pathology program led by Dr. Chakradhar Mattupalli at the San Luis Valley Research Center is currently conducting research to demonstrate the efficacy of this seed cutter in reducing a bacterial and viral disease spread that can occur during seed cutting operations. Preliminary results are promising, and post-harvest tests are currently in progress. Stay tuned for more updates.

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