Researchers in Ireland have found a valuable use for unwanted potato peel which could have the potential to control agricultural pests, improve health and combat cancer.
Teagasc, the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority, has been working with phytochemicals derived from plants, to examine the peels for glycoalkaloid compounds. The compounds can be toxic at high levels but have already proven their worth when used as a topical treatment for skin cancer.
Dr Nigel Brunton, a senior research officer with Teagasc, told the Irish Times: "We have been interested in by-products for quite a while now. They are mostly defense compounds the plants produce themselves that may have a beneficial effect for human health."
The research will ultimately have an impact on lowering food waste sent to landfill and crisp manufacturers Largo Foods, who have to pay for the disposal of around 30-40 tonnes of wet peel each week, are happy to donate for the research.
Brunton added: "If we can do anything useful at all with the waste, that's a good thing."
The project, being carried out in collaboration with University College Cork, will isolate glycoalkaloids from the potato waste and hopefully find some novel compounds in the process.
Meanwhile, the glycoalkaloids could potentially help farmers ward off nematode (ringworm) by causing them to hatch early, before the potatoes have grown. Without a food source the insects would die off.
The research is being funded by the Department of Agriculture and Food's Firm scheme.