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Effect of agricultural production systems on the potato metabolome


Potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) cv. Santé was grown over 2 years under both conventional and organic fertiliser and crop protection regimes. The tuber metabolome was analysed using mass-spectrometry (MS) based approaches, principally liquid chromatography (LC)–MS and gas chromatography (GC)–MS. Data were analysed using Principal Components Analysis (PCA) and Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) to assess any differences between production practices. GC–MS analysis of non-polar metabolites did not detect any statistically significant differences, but GC–MS analysis of polar compounds identified 83 metabolites showing significant differences in the metabolome between the fertiliser treatments. Of the 62 metabolites that were less abundant in tuber samples from organic compared with conventionally fertilised crops, consistent year on year differences were dominated by free amino acids. The effect on free amino acids is associated with the lower nitrogen (N) content of the organically grown potatoes in this instance (50 % lower than for conventional production). LC–MS provided indications that levels of certain glycoalkaloids may be lower under the organic fertiliser regime in one growing season. Differences associated with the crop protection measures used were much less consistent, and relatively small, compared with the fertiliser effects found.

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The authors would like to thank Paul Neave for technical support. The authors would also like to thank Sean Connor, Gary Dobson, Tom Shepherd and Susan Verrall for advice with data processing and metabolite identification. This work was supported by SAFEFOODS (EU FP6 Contract No Food-CT-2004-506446); Quality Low Input Food (QLIF; EU FP6 Contract No CT-2004-506358) and by the Scottish Government’s Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services (RESAS) Division.

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Correspondence to Louise Vida Traill Shepherd.

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Shepherd, L.V.T., Hackett, C.A., Alexander, C.J. et al. Effect of agricultural production systems on the potato metabolome. Metabolomics 10, 212–224 (2014).

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  • Conventional cultivation
  • Metabolomics
  • Organic cultivation
  • Potato
  • QLIF
  • Solanum tuberosum