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Argentinian researchers look for ways to improve sweet potato yields

Argentina produces 190,000 tons of sweet potato per year. The INTA and the Faculty of Agronomy of the UBA (FAUBA) have studied the influence that environmental conditions have on the production of sweet potatoes, by using different varieties, in order to improve the yields of the different varieties of this tuber grown in the different regions of the country. Temperatures and rainfall determine yields to a greater extent; however, quality is more related to genetics, they stated.

“Since almost 83% of Argentina's sweet potato production is concentrated in the Pampean Region and in the NEA, producers in the rest of the country take these yields as a reference and choose varieties based on that information. However, they usually achieve very different productivity, ”said Rodrigo Borioni, a professional from INTA and a Masters in Plant Production from the FAUBA Graduate School.

Genetic diversity, quality, and quantity
Borioni spoke about the impact of genetics on the good industrial quality of the crop. “The genotype determined 80% of the sweet potatoes' starch content and more than 60% of their dry matter, two key parameters for the industry. If we select a sweet potato variety because of its great industrial aptitude in a specific environment, we'll achieve a similar quality when we cultivate it in other climatic and soil conditions.”

“In contrast, crop yields did depend on the environmental conditions in which they were developed, as well as on how that environment interacted with the genetics of the variety. In the trials, these two aspects explained 75% of the changes in the yields of the varieties. Therefore, if we select a variety for its performance in a specific environment, it will surely not produce the same amount of tons per hectare in other soils, with different levels of temperature and rainfall.”

The results of the study indicate that, at the national level, crop productivity can increase. “By identifying which variety works best in each environment we will be able to select and optimize genetic materials for different regions of the country. This progress could benefit both small and medium-sized producers in Argentina and the future sweet potato industry,” said Rodrigo, who added that INTA had a project aimed at opening a flour and sweet potato starch factory in NOA.

“The intention of INTA is to continue providing information to the breeding programs of this crop. These programs are fundamental to spread the production and industrial development of the sweet potato production chain in Argentina,” Rodrigo Borioni added.



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