General Decontamination of residual soil from potato cyst nematodes and yellow nutsedge


The Belgian potato processing industry has evolved to the biggest exporter of pre-fried potato products worldwide. Belgapom, the federation of potato trade and processing companies, plays a significant role in the sustainable production of potato and potato products.

In the past years, there has been an increasing concern regarding the spread of potato cyst nematodes, Globodera rostochiensis and G. pallida. These quarantine species are major constraints to potato production and are spread passively via contaminated soil, including soil that comes along with harvested potato tubers. This is a problem for potatoes imported from other countries because of the European legislation concerning soil transport. The soil is removed at the processor or packer and should be disposed in a manner that does not infest new fields. Therefore, decontamination of the residual soil is of paramount importance. Belgapom called on the ILVO experts for help.

The entire agrifood chain must work together to achieve circularity. The processing of residual soil was an important missing link in that context. Belgapom is therefore pleased that thanks to this project we have come one step closer to a circular, sustainable and modern processing chain.

Noémi Van Bogaert (Scientific advisor, Belgapom)
Cysts on a potato root
Potato cysts on a potato root

The first project "Restaarde Circulair (Circular Residual Soil)", which has received funding from Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (2018-2019) was carried out at ILVO in collaboration with UGent, Flanders’ FOOD and the Soil Service of Belgium.

We explored the possibilities to decontaminate residual soil and make it free of nematodes. Heating residual soil resulted in mortality of quarantine potato cyst nematodes.

Nicole Viaene (Researcher, ILVO)
Knolcyperus potato
Yellow nutsedge in a potato field

This research is now extended to the COOCK project, Restaarde Circulair II (Circular Residual Soil II), which is financed by Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship. The same partners are exploring practical ways to decontaminate the residual soil attached to potato tubers and root vegetables from potato cyst nematodes as well as from yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus), a noxious weed. Several heating techniques such as microwave technology, fluidized bed heating and steam injection are examined to create the necessary thermal conditions to kill potato cysts and yellow nutsedge. If the necessary conditions for heating, and thus killing off cysts and yellow nutsedge, appear to be feasible, the best technique will be validated by building a pilot installation at a potato processing company.

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