Thesis topic: Assessment of physiological age of seed potatoes and the subsequent crop performance

Published on
March 29, 2021

Contact of supervisors

Chunmei Zou (

Prof. Dr. Paul Struik (

Dr. Ir. Willemien Lommen (

Prof. Dr. Martin van Ittersum (


The current potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) production system relies mainly on vegetative propagation through seed tubers. The physiological age (the physiological state of the seed tuber which influences its productive capacity) is crucial for the growth vigour of seed tubers and subsequent crop development and yield. In practice, planting physiologically older seed tubers results in earlier canopy growth with a shorter growing period, and planting younger seed tubers results in slower canopy development with a longer growing period. However, due to its high complexity and variability across years, there is a lack of clarity and adequate information on the physiological age. This hinders producers making a good planning of storage and planting, and contributed to recent problems of poor crop establishment and yield, both in the Netherlands and abroad. 


To develop a reliable tool to assess physiological age and to predict crop performance


In this research, we use potato cultivars of contrasting maturity types and different rates of physiological ageing of seed tubers and store them at different temperatures. Specifically, we will exploit plant metabolomics to analyse changes in the metabolite profiles of cultivars in response to storage temperatures, and to look for potential biochemical indicators of physiological age. Data collected will be applied in modelling the development of physiological age during storage accounting for Genotype x Environment interaction. Seed tubers will be planted at multiple experimental field sites. Data collected from field measurements will be combined with sprouting and metabolic data to model the impact of physiological age on crop performance. Models developed during this project will be evaluated and applied in improved decision support systems for crop management and to reduce the yield gap in potato production.

This project offers multiple choices of hands-on and theoretical work for an MSc (BSc) thesis, including:

-       Analysing sprouting dynamics of seed tubers under different storage temperature treatments (winter-spring)

-       Analysing tissue-specific metabolite profiles of seed tubers, and linking the changes to sprouting dynamics

-       Modelling the physiological ageing process of seed tubers

-       Analysing field crop performance of seed tubers at three field locations (summer)

-       Analysing crop performance in relation to sprouting and metabolic dynamics of seed tubers

-       Modelling the impact of physiological age on crop performance

-       Analysing the effect of different seed tuber origins on crop performance


Crop Systems Analysis (CSA) group and Plant Production System (PPS) group, Wageningen University

Required courses in consultation

General: MAT-20306 Advanced statistics

Courses CSA: CSA-30306 Advanced crop physiology; CSA-30806 Research methods in Crop Science

Courses PPS: PPS-30306 Quantitative Analysis of Land Use Systems (QUALUS); PPS-30806 Analysing Sustainability of Farming Systems


Wageningen Unifarm; Multiple field locations in The Netherlands


01/01/2021 -- 31/10/2023

Project type 

MSc & BSc thesis (24-36 ECTS)