Don Labonte

Labonte, Don R.
Title Professor and Director
Department School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences
Address 1 104 M. B. Sturgis
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
Phone 225-578-1203

B.S., Eastern Illinois University
M.S., Eastern Illinois University
Ph.D., University of Illinois

I currently serve as the director of the School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences.

Plant breeding is by nature a cooperative endeavor. The sweetpotato scientific and extension group at the LSU AgCenter is closely involved in the evaluation and development of new cultivars. Our most recent release is Bellevue, which set a new yield benchmark for yield and quality. The copper skin sets it apart from all other varieties. Another release is Orleans, a cultivar that looks very similar to the popular Beauregard cultivar, but with slightly higher yield due to improved shape. Our breeding program released two white flesh varieties – Bonita and Murasaki-29. Specialty types represent a small but growing segment of the industry.

I team teach HORT 2860 – Growth and Development of Agricultural Crops. This is an on-line course shared with several universities. I also teach HORT 7071 – Advanced Plant Genetics and coordinate the horticulture internship class, HORT 3000.

  • Development of new sweet potato cultivars
  • Sweet potato molecular genetics

As a sweetpotato breeder and geneticist, I focus on developing new cultivars for the sweetpotato industry. This is a collaborative effort with several scientists at the LSU AgCenter. Although industry requirements change, high yield and disease resistance are always critical traits. The industry today is faced with two major challenges: increasing production costs and crop loss due to flooding. On the positive side, the industry is also enjoying increased consumer demand through new value-added products like French fried sweetpotatoes.

There are several ways we try to counteract higher production costs. Increased yield without increased cost is a classic goal that is difficult to achieve, given the high yield of today’s varieties, but we keep trying! Other, more subtle, options include improved shape and higher grade out. Although the demand for fresh, whole sweetpotatoes continues to increase, many sweetpotatoes are unsuitable because of minor shape imperfections. Increasing the percent of sweetpotatoes which can be sold unprocessed is very important. The breeding program is also developing varieties with a tougher skin to enable mechanical harvest, thus saving labor costs. These varieties will be for processing and may not be acceptable on the fresh market, but given the growth in the processing sector, it is a clear priority.

The genetics program is closely allied with the breeding program. Our current emphasis is to identify and characterize genes which are involved in storage root development and environmental factors critical in storage root initiation. There is also a keen interest in understanding skinning resistance to aid in developing a more durable skin.

Solis, J., N. Baisakh, A.Q. Villordon, and D.R. LaBonte. 2016. Transcriptome profiling of beach morning glory (Ipomoea imperati) under salinity and its comparative analysis with sweetpotato. Plos One 11(2) e0147398. Doi::10.137/journal.pone.0147398.

LaBonte, D.R., C.A. Clark, T.P Smith, A.Q. Villordon, and C.S. Stoddard. 2015. ‘Bellevue’ sweetpotato. HortSci. 50:930-931.

LaBonte, D.R., C.A. Clark, T.P Smith, A.Q. Villordon, and C.S. Stoddard. 2014. ‘Burgundy’ sweetpotato. HortSci. 49:669-671.

Solis, J., A. Villordon, N. Baisakh, D. LaBonte, and N. Firon. 2014. Effect of drought on storage root development and gene expression profile of sweetpotato under greenhouse and field conditions. J. Am. Soc. Hort. Sci. 139:317-324.

Firon, N., D. LaBonte, A. Villordon, Y. Kfir, J. Solis, E. Lapis, T. Schnitzer Perlman, A. Doron-Faigenboim, A. Hetzroni, L. Althan, and L. Adani Nadir. 2013. Transcriptional profiling of sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas) roots indicates down-regulation of lignin biosynthesis and up-regulation of starch biosynthesis at an early stage of storage root formation. BMG Genomics 14:460.

Effendy, J., D. La Bonte, and N. Biasakh. 2013 Identification and expression of skinning injury-responsive genes in sweetpotato. J. Am. Soc. Hort. Sci. 138:210-216.

Wang, G., R.A. Arancibia, J.L. Main, M.W. Shankle, and D.R. LaBonte. 2013. Preharvest foliar applications of ethephon increase skin lignin/suberin content and resistance to skinning in sweetpotato storage roots. HortScience 48:1270-1274

Villordon, A.Q., D. LaBonte, N. Firon, and E. Carey. 2013. Variation in nitrogen rate and local availability alter root architecture attributes at the onset of storage root initiation in ‘Beauregard’ sweetpotato. HortScience 48:808-815

LaBonte, D.R., C.A. Clark, T.P. Smith, and A.Q.Villordon. 2012. 'Orleans' Sweetpotato. HortScience 47:1817-1818.

Villordon, A.Q., D. LaBonte, J. Solis, and N. Firon. 2012. Characterization of Lateral Root Development at the Onset of Storage Root Initiation in 'Beauregard' Sweetpotato Adventitious Roots. HortScience 47:961-968

Villordon, A.Q., C. Clark, D. LaBonte, and N. Firon. 2012. Methylcyclopropene has a variable effect on adventitious root emergence from cuttings of two sweetpotato cultivars. HortSci 47:1764-1767

LaBonte, D.R., C.A. Clark, A.Q. Villordon, and T Smith. 2015. LA 06-52 Sweetpotato. US PP 26735

LaBonte, D.R., C.A. Clark, A.Q. Villordon, and T Smith. 2015. LA 04-175 Sweetpotato. US PP 25308

LaBonte, D.R., C.A. Clark, A.Q. Villordon, and T Smith. 2013. LA 05-111 Sweetpotato. US PP 23761

LaBonte, D.R., C.A. Clark, A.Q. Villordon, and T Smith. 2013. LA 07-146 Sweetpotato. US PP 23785

LaBonte, D.R., C.A. Clark, A.Q. Villordon, and T Smith. 2010. Bonita Sweetpotato. US PP 22719.

LaBonte, D.R., C.A. Clark, and A.Q. Villordon. 2009. Murasaki-29 Sweetpotato. US PP 19955.

LaBonte, D.R., C.A. Clark, and A.Q. Villordon. 2009. Evangeline Sweetpotato. US PP 19710.

Innovate . Educate . Improve Lives

The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture