Technology 22 December 2016

Ionization for
healthy potatoes

Ionization is a natural purification process used during cheese storage, the brewing of beer, and intensive livestock farming. Initial research results for potato storage are promising. Measurements suggest a positive effect in the first and second generation of seed potatoes.

The beauty of ionization
is that it's a harmless
technique that does not
produce any
harmful residues

The ionization process

'You can compare it to a storm,' explains Gentia Lokkers, director of ATB Nederland and involved in the study on ionization in potato storage. 'When the wind passes through pine needles, it creates an electrical charge. This electrical charge breaks down dirt, which is how nature cleans itself.

‘We use a similar method, by passing air through a device. This converts the oxygen atoms into positively and negatively charged ions that bind together. These connections deactivate viruses, bacteria, and moulds in a process known as cold combustion. The beauty of ionization is that it's a harmless technique that does not produce any harmful residues.'


'Our goal is to use ionization to make sure potatoes stay in their original condition throughout the storage period,' Gentia continues. 'We can't access the flesh of the potato, but we can slow an outbreak or stop it altogether. Good example of this are silver scurf, Fusarium, and Colletotrichum coccodes (black dot). The use of chemicals can therefore be significantly reduced - even to zero - so growers can walk through their potato sheds with pleasure.'

Ionization not only provides occupational health benefits and reduces the amount of chemicals used, this 'greening' is also good for the sector's image. Finally, it results in a higher quality potato. 


Over the next two years, HZPC and ATB will conduct a joint research study to collect evidence on the effects of ionization in potato storage. This study will include lab tests and field trials and will be carried out in collaboration with PPO (part of Wageningen University) and the Van Hall Institute.

'Previous research has shown that ionization has positive effects up to the second generation of seed potatoes and has no negative effects on germination or growth,' explains Gentia. 'Both HZPC and our own company have a good feeling about this technique, which has been applied successfully in other industries. But it takes time to collect evidence and generate results. The art is to calculate and apply the technique properly.'

“The art is to
calculate and apply
the technique properly”
Gentia Lokkers, ATB Nederland

The research study is subsidized by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Northern Netherlands Joint Venture, and the province of Fryslân (Friesland).

About ATB Nederland

ATB Nederland specializes in water purification and industrial process engineering. 'Our slogan is: technology with a human face,' says Gentia Lokkers. 'We think it's important to treat each other and our planet with respect. We're a sustainable company that is committed to making continual improvements.

We have a practical view of technology and embrace the challenge of using existing technology in an innovative way.

‘I personally hate the term "corporate social responsibility." We're always environmentally aware, which is only logical. But it's becoming increasingly engrained in our legislation, and people approach us for this reason.'

HZPC & ionization

The pressure to manage storage diseases like silver scurf is extremely high. On the one hand, many seed potato buyers have ratcheted up their quality demands in recent years. On the other hand, it's become increasingly difficult to use chemical agents to combat storage diseases. This is why it's important to find an alternative for combating these pests. We expect that ionization will prove to be an ideal method that can help our growers keep their seed potatoes free from storage diseases. If this method is successful, we will have made an important step towards healthier seed potatoes and more sustainable potato production.

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