• NCSU varieties of sweetpotatoes are planted on approximately 90% of the acres in NC, including Covington, which provided $210 million in gross revenue to the sweetpotato industry in 2014.
  • The Sweetpotato Breeding and Genetics program works with thousands of different experimental lines each season. Sweetpotatoes are stored in large racks contained in climate controlled rooms over the winter in preparation for the next season. In the spring, these roots are bedded (planted) over 3 acres at the Horticulture Crops Research Station in Clinton, NC and used as stock plants for research all over the state.
  • Researcher Ken Pecota inspects sweetpotatoes in the National Collaborators Trial. The National Collaborators Trial is conducted in 12-14 locations across the country to test new material from national breeding programs for local adaptation.
  • Over 25 million units of ornamental sweetpotatoes of 15 varieties have been sold up to 2013, with approximately 5 million units sold annually. Newer varieties are on display at the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, NC.
  • NCSU plants over 55,000 sweetpotato seed annually. This seed comes from both field nurseries and paired crosses in the greenhouse. Each flower crossed in the greenhouse is completed by hand and then marked with a label indicating the parents. Once the seed capsule is mature, it is harvested, processed, and stored until it is ready to be planted.
  • jquery galleryThe majority of sweetpotatoes are harvested by hand, a long and slow process. NCSU is working with industry partners to evaluate new clones for the suitability of mechanical harvest in order to improve harvest efficiency.
  • More than 80,000 acres of sweetpotatoes were planted in NC in 2014. Here we see project members mowing the sweetpotato canopy in preparation for harvest. Once the canopy is mowed, a mechanical digger will lift the roots out of the soil so that selections can be made.
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About The NC State Sweetpotato Breeding and Genetics Program

The Sweetpotato Breeding and Genetics Program at North Carolina State University is one of the oldest sweetpotato breeding programs in the US. North Carolina is the leading supplier of sweetpotatoes in the nation producing ca. 240 thousand tons of sweetpotatoes per year, or roughly 30% of the nationals supply, which is worth an estimated US$ 55.7 million. The overall objectives of the research program are to: 1) develop sweetpotato varieties adapted to the growing conditions of North Carolina and the southeastern US; 2) broaden the germplasm base of cultivated sweetpotato through the incorporation of land races and related species; and 3) provide advanced training for national and international students and scientists interested in sweetpotato improvement. Traditional, biochemical, molecular marker-assisted, and transgenic breeding techniques are employed as necessary and feasible to facilitate our breeding efforts. To achieve our goals, the project interacts with a wide variety of public and private, and national and international interests.

Current domestic objectives of the breeding program include developing new orange- and white-fleshed sweetpotato varieties that are attractive, high yielding, stable across environments, and resistant to insects and pathogens of concern in the southeastern US. Current international projects include: 1) a McKnight Foundation Collaborative Crops Research Program project with the Namulonge Agricultural and Animal Research Institute (NAARI) in Uganda to develop sweetpotatoes resistant to sweetpotato virus disease (SPVD), a complex due to sweetpotato feathery mottle potyvirus (SPFMV) and sweetpotato chlorotic stunt crinivirus (SPCSV), using traditional breeding techniques; 2) a USAID/IARC project with Tuskegee University, The University of Florida, the International Potato Center, and NAARI to develop transgenic B.t.-expressing sweetpotatoes with resistance to sweetpotato weevils for use in East Africa; and 3) a project with CIP to develop a set of sweetpotato differentials for use in nematode race determination. In today's increasingly international marketplace our project is always looking for new partners to establish mutually beneficial collaborations focused on improving sweetpotato and increasing their productivity. Such projects may include, but are not restricted to, assisting with the development of new cultivars for either domestic or international use, and hosting and/or assisting with training of international scientists interested in sweetpotato improvement.