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Sustainable Potato Desiccation: Evaluating of Globally Used Methods for an Environmentally Friendly Approach

Potato desiccation, the process of terminating potato vines before harvest, is critical for ensuring quality tubers and efficient harvesting. The methods used worldwide to date, which are mostly based on chemical herbicides, are coming under increasing pressure due to the often high toxicity of the chemicals for humans, but also due to environmental issues and the more difficult effect of the substances that are still authorised. This blog delves into various potato desiccation methods, compares them using Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) scoring, and highlights how’s innovative approach aligns with sustainable agricultural practices.

Traditional Chemical Desiccation

Chemical desiccants, such as paraquat, diquat and e. g. carfentrazone-ethyl, have been widely used for decades. Highly toxic substances such as paraquat, diquat and glufosinate, for example, are increasingly being banned worldwide, meaning that only pyraflufen and carfentrazone are now permitted in the EU. The remaining chemicals require sunlight to take effect, are slower than the banned substances and pose additional challenges for farmers due to the restrictions on the frequency of use.  Non-selective herbicides are still to be further reduced as part of general reductions in the use of crop protection products (Green Deal, Farm2Fork). Additionally, the social acceptability of chemical usage is declining as consumers demand more sustainable, residue-free produce.

ESG Scoring:

  • Environmental: Low to medium (depending on substance) due to residues and biodiversity loss.
  • Social: Moderate to very low, given high human toxicity of substances for bystanders (banned in the EU)  and societal pressure for residue-free products.
  • Governance: Variable, subject to stringent regulations and potential bans.

Mechanical Desiccation

Mechanical desiccation involves physically destroying potato vines. This method avoids or at least reduces chemical usage, aligning with environmentally friendly practices. However, mechanical desiccation can be less effective in wet conditions, potentially leading to incomplete vine kill and disease proliferation.

ESG Scoring:

  • -Environmental:** High to medium, as it avoids (or at least reduces) chemical residues and pollution.
  • Social:** High, given its safety and acceptability.
  • Governance:** High, with minimal regulatory concerns as long as used as single method.

Thermal Desiccation

Thermal desiccation uses propane burners to apply direct heat, effectively killing vines. This method reduces chemical reliance but has its drawbacks, such as high energy consumption and potential soil / organism damage from repeated use.

ESG Scoring:

  • Environmental:** Moderate, considering energy use, climate change issues and potential soil impact.
  • Social:** High, with no chemical residue concerns.
  • Governance:** High, as it faces fewer regulatory hurdles.

Biological Desiccation

In organic farming, after the end of fungicide treatments with copper, either natural ripening in late summer/autumn or premature destruction of the stems due to late blight or drought is waited for. Haulm topping is also used in some cases.  The main problems lie in the low predictability and the high disease pressure on the storability of the potatoes.

ESG Scoring:

  • Environmental: High, given its natural approach.
  • Social: Moderate to high, with increasing consumer acceptance but high prices and restricted availability.
  • Governance:** Moderate to high, depending on regulatory approval.’s Electro-Physical Desiccation’s innovative approach combines the electrophysical destruction of leaves and stems with the effective utilisation of electric current through the use of volt.fuel. This liquid, which is also approved for organic farming, reduces the electrical resistance when the current penetrates the plants. There is no damage to the potatoes, no waiting times and no damage to soil organisms.   

ESG Scoring:

  • Environmental: High, as it avoids chemical residues and acts nearly only on the potato vines.
  • Social: High, addressing health concerns and aligning with consumer demands for sustainable produce at prices of conventional products.
  • Governance: High, meeting stringent regulatory standards and anticipating future legislative trends.

Comparative Analysis and Conclusion

When comparing these methods using ESG criteria,’s electro-physical desiccation stands out as the most balanced and sustainable option. Traditional chemical methods score poorly due to their environmental and social drawbacks and declining effectiveness. Mechanical and thermal methods offer better environmental and social scores but face operational challenges. The methods used in organic farming quite sustainable but are not suitable for ensuring larger market shares in a safe and cost-effective manner.’s approach excels by integrating haulm destruction with innovative technology, ensuring effective desiccation while safeguarding environmental and social factors. This method supports sustainable farming practices, maintains crop quality and meets the stringent demands of modern governance frameworks.

As agriculture professionals and farmers strive for sustainability, adopting innovative solutions like’s electro-physical desiccation is crucial. This approach not only aligns with global sustainability goals but also enhances operational efficiency and meets the rising consumer demand for environmentally friendly produce. By embracing such technologies, the agriculture sector can ensure a greener, more sustainable future for all stakeholders.