Canadian plant breeding boosts sweet potato profitability potential

Sweet potatoes are grown on 2,300 acres across Canada, and with breeding efforts now producing varieties adapted to Canadian growing conditions, the crop boasts the potential for greater profits and sustainability.

Leading those research efforts is Valerio Primomo, a vegetable breeder based at Ontario’s Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. At the recent Ontario Certified Crop Advisors Association convention, Primomo told agronomists that the heat-loving crop is highly profitable, and developing more adapted varieties would give growers a significant production, marketing, and profitability bump.

Production of the sweet, orange-coloured vegetable is primarily based in the U.S. and China, but Canadian growers —with the bulk of production based in southern Ontario — are cashing in on the high-valued crop.

Currently, growers rely primarily on two varieties,  Covington and Orleans, both adapted to more southern growing regions. But Radiance, a new variety developed by Primomo and the Vineland team, has the potential quickly win a significant portion of planted acres. It’s a much earlier variety, maturing 10 to 20 days prior to current varieties, produces higher yields and “tastes great,” says Primomo.

Early maturity is a key Radiance trait, delivering an earlier harvest and allowing growers to tap into the lucrative Thanksgiving market. On average, growers who currently plant Covington and Orleans generate revenue of $10,000 per acre. Minus cost of production, profits typically run between $3,000 to $4,000 per acre. With higher yields and greater market opportunities, Primomo believes Radiance could boost the bottom line by as much as $2,000 per acre.

But there’s still work to be done. In this interview with RealAgriculture’s Bernard Tobin, Primomo explains that the next step in Radiance’s development is to bulk up slip production. He’s hopeful Radiance slip production could find a home in Canadian greenhouses.

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