In recent years, potatoes are starting to lose their importance as a food crop for various reasons. The potential of the crop in the chemical and starch industry, however, is growing for a long time. Starch potatoes provide the full feeling, although taste has been placed at a distant second priority. The focus now is placed more on the composition and quality of the starch. The altered starch potato will soon be introduced to Europe and Asia, with the potato being genetically modified. Here are some things to expect with the development.
One in every four potatoes grown in Europe is consumed by individuals. About 50% are fed to animals. The rest will be used as raw material for producing starch and alcohol. Potatoes are getting more important, since renewable raw materials for the starch industry are needed through the years. The starch that comes out of potatoes is not the ideal state. This is composed of two starch types: amylopectin and amylase, which have unique traits.
The two types of starch:
Amylopectin comprises 80% of the starch included in potatoes and is made up of huge and highly-branched molecules. This also makes the starch water soluble and provides the unique stickiness. This is very helpful in paper, food and chemical companies as glue, paste or a lubricant. Amylose is composed of long and chain-like molecules that are used most of the time in the creation of foils and films.
More on Starch
Amylopectin and amylase are very useful for human nutrition. As for the processing business, a combination of various starches can pose potential threats. The industry has to divide the two types via a pricey method that can also harm the environment. Plant breeders now are working very hard to enhance the potatoes to produce only a single type of starch. The focus is placed on creating potatoes that only have amylopectin, because of the wide possibly applications that can be done with it.
Classical breeding approaches have not yet led to an amylase-free potato that have an approved yield and tolerance to diseases and pests. Genetically modified potatoes provides a more focused approach to controlling the amylase production.
GMO potatoes have also been experimented and tested in different trials over the years. Genetic engineering have tried to create disease and pest resistant potatoes although the results have not been very satisfactory. Some have been developed and approved in Canada and the United states. The GM potatoes over the long run did not become very widespread, because these did not present a lot of economic benefits. Big companies in the United States also did not want to bring the GM crops to further processing.
Currently, there are tests and activities trying to improve the tolerance of potatoes to Phytophthora infestans. This is one of the most dangerous plant diseases present in warm and moist conditions. It could spell disaster just as it did from 1846 to 1850, called the Irish Potato Famine. Heavy metal treatments and fungicides are used to treat and battle the disease with the hope of growing healthy and nutritious potatoes.