The idea was straightforward: develop a sweet potato variety that could be adapted across Canada so the country could grow more sweet potatoes rather than rely on imports.
“It basically came down to developing a new sweet potato variety that was an early maturing variety. The varieties currently available to Canadian growers are long-season type,” says Dr. Valerio Primomo with Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland) in Vineland Station, Ont. “These are developed in the Southern U.S. which has a longer season compared to ours.”
Radiance's spacing trial.
And so, Radiance was born as an option that eventually and hopefully will be available to incorporate (and possibly expand) into Canada’s more than 2,000 acres of sweet potatoes grown annually.“Right now, a lot of our sweet potatoes are imported from the U.S.—about 72,000 metric tons in 2018 so that’s equivalent to about 6,000 acres of sweet potatoes,” says Dr. Primomo. “We can’t supply the demand up here and right now and all of the acreage is concentrated in Southern Ontario.”
Following three years of agronomic trials across Canada, Radiance came away with some interesting properties: it matured 11 to 20 days earlier than commercial varieties Covington and Orleans. It offered significantly higher yields and could be double-row planted to reduce total acreage.
Maturity trial for Radiance sweet potato.
“This variety does perform well and now there’s a lot of interest to grow it across Canada,” says Dr. Primomo. “Once you have the variety, then it’s about optimizing yields.” He adds that the next step is to get growers to try growing five to 10 acres to really understand the variety.
That remains the challenge for now. “We’re trying to mass produce this variety. There’s big demand for it but we can’t get enough slips produced for the growers,” says Dr. Primomo. “We’re trying to build a Canadian value chain but it’s difficult because slip production is new to the industry up here. Propagators have to do it in the greenhouse which makes it more expensive, compared to the U.S. where they do it outside for cheaper.” So for now Vineland is working with a U.S. propagator to get large quantities in Canada for growers.
Radiance (top photo) compared to the Convington (below) sweet potato.
Radiance has also caught the eye of growers outside of Canada. “European growers have heard about it and they’re trialing it. U.S. growers, because of our relationship with Louisiana State University (LSU) who owns the variety, are testing it as well,” says Dr. Primomo.