Smart Storage

Amvac's SmartBlock storage treatment

Published in the April 2015 Issue Published online: Apr 30, 2015 Tyrell Marchant, Editor
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Often, even the best-laid plans don’t work out. Then again, sometimes they succeed in ways that no one had expected. Through two years, Amvac’s strategy for its SmartBlock sprout control product appears to fit in the latter category.

“The first year and half were about optimizing the product,” says Amvac marketing director Tony Zatylny. “Now we’re turning our attention to what the other value-added offerings we can make with that.”

SmartBlock is a post-harvest sprout inhibitor that burns off peeping sprouts and restores dormancy in potatoes. First registered in March 2013, the product attacks actively growing tissue, and Zatylny says that the effects are evident almost immediately after application. “You can actually see a sprout disintegrate, just collapse,” he says. “Within 24 hours of application, sprouts turn black, they fall off, and they’re gone.”

SmartBlock’s active ingredient is a naturally occurring molecule classified by the FDA as an approved direct food additive, and by the EPA as a biopesticide.

“The spectrum [of applications the product succeeds with] has been amazing,” says Tom Larsen, Amvac’s product development manager for the Northern region. “Our recommendation is to make the treatment when they start peeping. But we’ve had some guys who have gone in on a rescue mission with sprouts that are an inch or more in length, and it knocks them right off.” Depending on temperature and variety, Zatylny and Larsen both say that a single application lasts two to three months.

However, as stated before, anecdotal evidence points to SmartBlock as being an effective tool for more than just sprout control. A prime example of this has been, Zatylny says, that “potatoes will firm up a little bit; it’s a little unexpected. But as a result we see that there’s potentially less brown spotting because there’s less pressure bruising, and we’re starting to see higher pack-out rates.”

Another positive side effect, according to some applicators, has been a reduction in silver scurf occurrence. “The way the product works,” says Zatylny, explaining that many of these unforeseen benefits still aren’t fully researched, “is it goes after actively growing tissue. When you look at some of the disease structures, they have exposed tissue, so the product works on that. So now we’ve gone beyond product optimization to trying to discover all the other benefits of its use. The benefits are starting to look like they’re going to extend well beyond simply controlling sprouts, and it could become a real management tool.”

When Amvac introduced SmartBlock, it was entering a very well-served portion of the market, and the company had no illusions about the competitiveness it faced. With positive accounts continuing to come in from growers and applicators around the country, it’s looking more and more like the investment will pay off in a big way.

“We’re more excited today than we were when we launched the product,” says Zatylny. “It could become a game changer.”