Sweet potato research collaboration leads to national award

Tobie Blanchard, Smith, Tara, Labonte, Don R.  |  7/4/2013 1:29:35 AM

News Release Distributed 07/03/13

BATON ROUGE, La. – The National Sweetpotato Collaborators Conference, a project that includes LSU AgCenter faculty, has received the 2013 Excellence in Multistate Research Award from the Experiment Station Committee on Organization and Policy of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges.

The award recognizes outstanding research collaboration of state agriculture experiment stations in projects that two or more states share as a priority.

This project was initiated in 1939 to exchange information about all aspects of sweet potato production and post-harvest research and extension, according to Don LaBonte, director of the LSU AgCenter School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences and a sweet potato breeder.

The collaborators group is led by faculty with the LSU AgCenter, North Carolina State University, Mississippi State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agriculture Research Service. It also includes research and extension faculty and industry representatives located throughout the United States.

LaBonte said the success of the group is in its collective diversity of expertise.

“This group is now approaching its 75th year and represents the most organized and systematic approach to sweet potato research in the world,” LaBonte said. “No other group anywhere in the world serves the intellectual and practical research and extension needs of producers like the national sweet potato collaborators group.”

LaBonte said the collaborator group is integral in evaluating new sweet potato selections. He pointed out that no private companies are involved in sweet potato breeding, “so releases are the sole domain of public programs.”

The group has released 94 sweet potato varieties.

The group also addresses critical production and pest management issues related to disease, insect and weed control. Through the years, the group has developed successful management strategies for the sweetpotato weevil and screening methods for diseases such as soil rot and Fusarium wilt.

Outreach is an important part of the group, which works to keep farmers informed of research findings. The collaborators have collectively published more than 1,000 refereed and extension publications that reach growers and the global research community.

“The award underscores the importance of the national sweet potato collaborators group,” said Tara Smith, LSU AgCenter Northeast Region director and coordinator of the AgCenter Sweet Potato Research Station in Chase. “Everything we do across the southern region is to support the sweet potato industry.”

The project is part of the Southern Extension Research Activities , which includes collaborating AgCenter faculty members Chris Clark and Donnie Miller along with LaBonte and Smith.

Other members of LSU AgCenter’s sweet potato team include Arthur Villordon, Dave Picha, Julien Beuzelin, Jeff Davis and extension agents located throughout Louisiana.

Tobie Blanchard
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