Just eating a sweet potato could save a life

Photo credit: SciDevNet

Copyright: Polycarp Otieno

Breeding sweet potatoes to get maximum benefits

by Esther Nakkazi

So it might be the right sweet potato for me in terms of colour, shape, size, sweetness and firmness but it will also have to be drought-tolerant, pest- and disease-resistant, high-yielding, have a long shelf life and grow fast” Esther Nakkazi


The sweet potato is an important crop. It provides a source of carbohydrates, income for small-scale farmers. The vines, roots and peels are used for animal feed mostly for pigs. But sweet potato’s potential has not been fully exploited.

Imagine China, the number one producer of sweet potato, produces 117 million metric tonnes annually, followed by Uganda with only 2.5 million metric tonnes. Even if African countries combined, their total sweet potato production would still be meagre compared to China’s massive production.

Breeders have a daunting task; they do not have to produce varieties that only satisfy our taste buds, but they must also look into issues such as climate change, pests and diseases.

Read the full article: SciDevNet

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.