The Sweetpotato Breeding and Genetics Program at North Carolina State University, one of the oldest sweetpotato breeding programs in the US, has a long history of success. Sweetpotatoes are the most important vegetable crop in North Carolina and are a major economic driver in rural eastern NC. During 2019-2020, our farmers produced over 1.5 billion pounds of sweetpotato, accounting for roughly 60% of the nation’s supply and ca. $300 million/year in farm receipts (4-year average). NC’s sweetpotato success story is recognized globally, and the state is considered one of the premier sweetpotato producers in the world, with over 415 farms and 28 storage facilities, packing facilities, and food manufacturers providing jobs in rural communities.
Likewise, NC State University has unparalleled expertise in sweetpotato research, encompassing breeding, genomics, quantitative genetics, cultural management, plant pathology, seed systems, food science, biological and agricultural engineering, economics, and, in today’s information-intensive world, new projects in advanced data analytics and computer visualization.
The Sweetpotato Breeding and Genetics Program is led by Dr. Craig Yencho with the assistance of Ken Pecota, who manages our field breeding activities. Our laboratories and greenhouse are located on NC State’s main campus, and our primary research site is located at the Horticultural Crops Research Station in Clinton, NC. We also have extensive trialing sites at: the Cunningham Research Station and Caswell Research Farm in Kinston, NC; the Central Crops Research Station in Clayton, NC; and the Sandhills Research Station in Jackson Springs, NC; as well as 3-5 on-farm trials each year that are located in the heart of the NC sweetpotato production region.
The program’s goals 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. We use a combination of conventional, biochemical, and genomic-assisted breeding as necessary and feasible to facilitate our breeding efforts.
A NCSPC-supported research project focused on developing new sweetpotato varieties for North Carolina growers that have exceptional yield, appearance, and quality characteristics
An effort supported by growers and several processing industry partners focused on developing new sweetpotato varieties for the French Fry and chip processing markets.
A USDA-NIFA SCRI research and extension project focused on quickly developing control strategies for the Guava Root Knot Nematode, Meloidogyne enterolobii, a newly introduced pest threatening our industry, and beginning longer-term, genomic-assisted sweetpotato breeding strategies to develop germplasm and new varieties with resistance to GRKN.
SweetGAINS is a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded project supporting collaboration between NCSU, the International Potato Center, the Boyce Thompson Institute, UGA, the UT Institute of Agriculture, and the National Crops Resources Research Institute to modernize sweetpotato breeding in Sub-Saharan Africa.
An NCDA&CS New and Emerging Crops Program project focused on the rapid release of a new generation of purple-fleshed sweetpotato varieties.
A project supported by Proven Winners® The #1 Plant Brand® that has resulted in the release of over 25 ornamental sweetpotato varieties to date.
- The North Carolina SweetPotato Commission
- USDA-NIFA SCRI
- Gates Foundation
- The International Potato Center (CIP)
- NC Ag Foundation
- Proven Winners
- Numerous industry partners in the sweetpotato processing sector
- NC Certified SP Seed Producers Association
- State and Federal Funding via the NCARS and Federal Hatch Funds
Are you interested in partnering with us for sweetpotato and potato breeding and genetic research? We look forward to hearing from you!
Your gift will support the Department of Horticultural Science, including but not limited to, the Sweetpotato and Potato Breeding and Genetics Programs. Funds are collected and managed by the NC Agricultural Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax id 56-6049304. You will receive a receipt for your donation.