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  • Author or Editor: Zvezdana Pesic-VanEsbroeck x
  • HortTechnology x
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Two distinct syndromes have emerged in some production areas that have caused losses of sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas) storage roots during postharvest storage: a complex of fungal rots (end rots) progressing from either end of storage roots and a necrotic reaction (internal necrosis) progressing internally from the proximal end of storage roots. This study was conducted in multiple environments to evaluate whether the use of preharvest ethephon application and storage with or without curing after harvest could be used to screen sweetpotato breeding lines for susceptibility/resistance to these two disorders. Treating vines with ethephon 2 weeks before harvest and placing harvested roots directly into storage at 60 °F without curing resulted in the greatest incidence of end rots in each state and there were significant differences in incidence among the sweetpotato genotypes evaluated. However, when ethephon was not used and roots were cured immediately after harvest, the incidence of end rots was low in all the genotypes evaluated except for one breeding line. Incidence and severity of internal necrosis were greatest when ethephon was applied preharvest and roots were cured immediately after harvest, but two cultivars, Hatteras and Covington, had significantly more internal necrosis than all others.

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A series of studies were conducted to better understand the occurrence and causes of internal necrosis (IN) in ‘Covington’ sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas). Assessment of the problem among the industry was done for 2 years and revealed that IN was widespread in commercial storage facilities throughout the state of North Carolina; both incidence and severity were generally low (<10% incidence with minimal severity of symptoms). A few storage rooms had a high percentage of IN with severe storage root symptoms but results were inconsistent across years and among rooms. Preharvest studies with commercially used insecticides did not induce IN, but the harvest aid ethephon consistently induced IN with an incidence higher than 50%. Internal necrosis symptoms were not detectable at harvest, and earliest consistent incidence was observed 6 days after harvest (DAH) during the curing phase. Symptoms became more prevalent and severe at 30 DAH. However, in commercial storage rooms, no relationship was found between IN incidence and postcuring storage temperature or relative humidity (RH) conditions. Sweetpotato storage roots stored in air-tight barrels and exposed to 100 ppm ethylene after curing showed no relationship between the presence of ethylene gas in storage and incidence of IN. Our results indicate that IN incidence of ‘Covington’ is erratic with no obvious cause among storage rooms and that initiation of IN may occur most frequently during the first week following harvest.

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