Sweetpotato roots, especially the cultivar Beauregard, tend to experience epidermal loss during harvest and postharvest handling which results in a less attractive product in the market. A survey study was conducted among North Carolina (N.C.) sweetpotato growers in Fall 2001 and 2002. The purpose of the survey was to gather information and try to correlate cultural practices, growing conditions and site characteristics with the occurrence of attractive roots and to define new scientific approaches to reducing epidermal loss. Samples were obtained from 42 N.C. farms. Survey field information and laboratory results were correlated to identify possible factors affecting the appearance of the roots. 1300 roots were used to measure skin adhesion, peeling susceptibility, skin moisture, skin anthocyanin and lignin content. From survey questions, 50 characteristics were defined for each sample, according to field characteristics, cultivar information, cultural practices and harvest and postharvest practices. Statistical analyses were performed to determine the relationship between the skin characteristics analyzed at the laboratory, and the survey descriptors information. Analysis of variance was used for laboratory data analysis. Person correlations were made between survey variables and laboratory characteristics. Several possible relationships between root appearance and other characteristics/practices were identified. Root skin adhesion may improve in later generations from elite propagation material. Early application of phosphate and potash fertilizers were correlated to improved root skin adhesion. There appeared to be a relationship between soil moisture at harvest time, increased lignin content in the skin and peeling susceptibility. Future areas of study were identified.
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