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  • Author or Editor: Nicholas A. George x
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Sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas) is one of the world’s most important and widely grown starch crops. It is usually produced for direct human consumption but can be readily converted to simple sugars that then have industrial end uses. The objective of this study was to compare the carbohydrate yield of the conventional sweetpotato cultivar, Beauregard, with new clones selected specifically for higher carbohydrate production. Ten sweetpotato clones were grown from both slips and root pieces at five locations, over 2 years, in North Carolina. A sweetpotato clone selected for high carbohydrate production, and planted as slips, yielded on average 4150 kg·ha−1 of carbohydrates, 10% to 15% higher than Beauregard. The chemical composition of roots was unaffected by planting method, but slips usually outyielded the same clone grown from root pieces. Carbohydrate yield was significantly impacted by genotype × environment effects in both slips and root pieces. We conclude that further work will be needed to develop sweetpotato clones with both high carbohydrate content and high yield potential, and that are also adapted to planting from root pieces. Any breeding and development work will need to take into account genotype × environment effects.

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Various workers have attempted to develop a root piece planting system for sweetpotato, similar to the system used commercially for potato, but attempts to select and breed sweetpotato clones adapted to root piece planting have met with mixed success. It has been hypothesized this is the result of significant genotype × environment effects, which are complicating phenotype screening. The aim of this work was to investigate genotype × environment interactions and yield stability of sweetpotato grown from cut root pieces. Ten sweetpotato clones were grown from cut root pieces in three locations over three seasons at sites in North Carolina and Mississippi. The study found sweetpotato clones grown from root pieces were influenced by both genetic and environmental factors and that the interaction was often complicated and dependent on the trait being measured. A significant genotype × environment interaction and yield instability were found to be present. Further work will be required to understand the nature of the genotype × environment effects; however, the results suggest programs aiming to develop sweetpotato clones adapted to root piece planting will need to use appropriate multienvironment screening so as to account for genotype × environment effects.

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Sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas) is traditionally grown for fresh consumption, particularly in developed nations, but it is increasingly being used for alternative markets such as processed foods and industrial products. Sweetpotato is well suited for these end uses but its utilization is limited due to high production costs. These costs are primarily the result of high labor inputs. As a vegetatively propagated crop, sweetpotato is typically planted using unrooted plant cuttings, or “slips,” which requires hand labor at several stages. Consequently, planting costs can be as high as 20% of total production costs. As an alternative to slips, sweetpotato can be established using root pieces, similar to the seed piece system used for potato (Solanum tuberosum). This system can be readily mechanized and therefore has the potential to reduce labor demands. Root piece planting has been investigated several times since the 1940s but is not reported to be in large-scale commercial use anywhere in the world. In this work, we review the research literature relating to root piece planting in sweetpotato. This literature demonstrates that it is possible for sweetpotato root pieces to produce yields comparable to slips, but that in most cases yields from root pieces are usually lower than from slips. We conclude that given suitable cultural management and appropriate varieties, it may be possible to successfully produce sweetpotato using root pieces. More work is necessary to develop root piece planting as a viable alternative to slips in sweetpotato production. This work should include the selection and breeding of adapted varieties, evaluation of the economics of sweetpotato production using root pieces, development of planting equipment suited to sweetpotato root pieces, and examination of chemical treatments to improve success of root piece planting.

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