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Master Gardener Sue Morris: Hollow heart only a cosmetic disorder in potatoes

Hollow heart is not harmful and does not affect the quality, taste or nutrition of the vegetable.

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Potatoes are one of the most common vegetables eaten by Americans. According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistic Service, 70% of potatoes grown in Minnesota are russet and are commonly used for French fries or hash browns.

The other 25% grown in Minnesota are red potatoes and white potatoes. These types of potatoes are not only commercially sold, but home gardeners grow their own potatoes for personal use.

Just like any other plant, potatoes are susceptible to diseases, insects and environmental stress.

Keep reading below the related content for more of this week's column from Master Gardener Sue Morris.

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University of Minnesota Extension Educator Emily Hansen recently made the public aware of a potato disorder she discovered in a potato she cut open.

She said the inside was completely hollow and brown. There is a name for this — hollow heart. It is a physiological, noninfectious disorder of a potato.

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This type of disorder is not caused by anything living, but rather environmental factors. You can identify if you have hollow heart by cutting your potato open and determining if you see a star or lens-shaped hollow center.

Photo of a potato with Hollow Heart,  where the potato is completely hollow and brown
Potato with Hollow Heart, a physiological, noninfectious disorder of a potato.
Contributed / Ben Phillips, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org

Hollow heart occurs under sudden changes in the growing season.

This change most often happens when there is a period of slow growth with little water intake and then an abrupt change to an abundance of water available to the potato. When this happens, the potato grows too quickly and pulls apart, leaving a hole in the center.

Even though this disorder may make you think twice about eating the potato, it is merely cosmetic.

Hollow heart is not harmful and does not affect the quality, taste or nutrition of the vegetable. In the commercial industry, however, hollow heart negatively affects potato chip production.

In order to prevent hollow heart from occurring in next year's crop, make sure that you choose varieties that are less susceptible to the disorder.

Another control measure that will make a difference is keeping a consistent watering schedule.

Checking soil moisture several times a week during dry periods as well as watering deep enough to keep the soil moist will alleviate the stress put on potatoes during the variation of the growing season.

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Thanks goes to Emily Hansen for providing us with this information.

I received a few calls about potato beetles earlier this year. Their threat is over for this year but will remember to cover that subject at the appropriate time next year.

Crop rotation and hand picking is the best way to combat that pest. Not many pesticides will kill them.

I haven’t grown potatoes for a few years and thankfully never had to deal with that problem.

__________

Master Gardener Sue Morris has been writing this column since 1991 for Kandiyohi County newspapers. Morris has been certified through the University of Minnesota as a gardening and horticulture expert since 1983. She lives in Kandiyohi County.

Master Gardener Sue Morris has been writing a column since 1991 for Kandiyohi County newspapers. Morris has been certified through the University of Minnesota as a gardening and horticulture expert since 1983. She lives in Kandiyohi County.
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