Sweetpotato

Sweetpotato

Ugandan child eats cooked OFSP
Ugandan child eats cooked OFSP

Sweetpotato is one of the world’s most important food crops in terms of human consumption, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, parts of Asia, and the Pacific Islands. First domesticated more than 5,000 years ago in Latin America, it is grown in more developing countries than any other root crop. Despite its name, sweetpotato is not related to the potato. It is a root, not a tuber, and belongs to the morning-glory family. Many parts of the plant are edible, including leaves, roots, and vines, and varieties exist with a wide range of skin and flesh color, from white to yellow-orange and deep purple.

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Sweetpotato Facts and  Figures

Sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas) belongs to the morning-glory family. In spite of its name, it is not related to the potato. Unlike the potato - which is a tuber, or thickened stem - the sweetpotato is a storage root. Despite a physical similarity, yams are not related either.

Sweetpotato can grow at altitudes ranging from sea level to 2,500 meters. It requires fewer inputs and less labor than other crops such as maize, and tolerates marginal growing conditions (e.g., dry spells, poor soil).

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How Sweetpotato Grows

Unlike the potato, which is a tuber, or thickened stem, the sweetpotato that we eat is the storage root of the plant; an enlarged lateral root.

The plant reproduces in three ways: from seed, from the actual storage roots, or from the plant vines. Sweetpotato is cultivated by vegetative propagation. Growers take stem cuttings from the vines, which then root and form new storage roots. In some colder climates, where vines do not develop well, producers will plant roots. Botanical seed is used in breeding programs.

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Sweetpotato Nutrition

Sweetpotatoes produce more edible energy per hectare per day than wheat, rice or cassava. They are good sources of carbohydrates, fiber, and micronutrients. The leaves and shoots, which are also edible, are good sources of vitamins A, C, and B (Riboflavin).

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Sweetpotato Processing and Uses

Many parts of the sweetpotato plant are edible, including the root, leaves, and shoots.

Sweetpotato vines also provide the basis for a high-protein animal feed.

Sweetpotato use has diversified considerably over the last four decades. With high starch content, it is well suited to processing and has become an important source of raw material for starch and starch-derived industrial products.

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Sweetpotato Pests and Diseases

Although sweetpotato can be produced under difficult growing conditions, weevils and other nematode and insect pests continue to plague production despite the use - and misuse - of insecticides.

The best strategy to counter these threats starts with host plant resistance. As well as breeding for resistance, CIP researchers develop and promote integrated pest management (IPM) techniques to increase yields and reduce farmers’ dependence on expensive and harmful pesticides.

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