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.

Research Contribution: 
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 LA 07-146, which set a new yield benchmark and makes excellent fries. 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 also recently released the popular Bonita cultivar, which has a pink-tan skin and white flesh. Specialty types represent a small but growing segment of the industry.

Teaching Experience:
I team teach two classes - HORT 2860 – Growth and Development of Agricultural Crops, and HORT 7071 – Advanced Plant Genetics. I also 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.

Nurit Firon, Don LaBonte, Arthur Villordon, Yanir Kfir, Julio Solis, Evgenia Lapis, Temima Schnitzer Perlman, Adi Doron-Faigenboim, Amots Hetzroni, Leviah Althan, and Lahan 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.

J. Effendy, 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.

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. HortSci. 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. Hort Sci. 47:1764-1767

LaBonte, D.R., C.A. Clark, T.P. Smith, and A.Q.Villordon. 2011. 'Bonita' Sweetpotato. HortScience 46:948-949

Tumwegamire, P.R. Rubaihayo, D.R. LaBonte, F. Diaz, R. Kapinga, R.O.M. Mwanga, and W.J. Gruneberg. 2011. Genetic Diversity in White- and Orange-fleshed Sweetpotato Farmer Varieties from East Africa evaluated by Simple Sequence Repeat (SSR) Markers. Crop Science. 51:1132-1142

Villordon, A.Q., D.R. La Bonte, and J. Solis. 2011. Using a Scanner-based Minirhizotron System to Characterize Sweetpotato Adventitious Root Development during the Initial Storage Root Bulking Stage. HortScience 46:513–517

Tumwegamire, Silver, Regina Kapinga, Patrick R. Rubaihayo, Don R. LaBonte, Wolfgang J. Grüneberg, Gabriela Burgos, Thomas zum Felde and Rosemary Carpio, Elke Pawelzik, and Robert O.M. Mwanga. 2011. Evaluation of dry matter, protein, starch, sucrose, β-carotene, iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium in East African sweetpotato [Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam] Germplasm. HortScience 46: 348-357

Mcharo, M. and D. LaBonte. 2010. Multivariate selection of AFLP markers associated with b-carotene in sweetpotatoes. Euphytica 175:123–132.

Villordon, A. C. Clark, T. Smith, D. Ferrin, and D. LaBonte. 2010. Combining linear regression and machine learning approaches to identify consensus variables related to optimum sweetpotato transplanting date. HortScience 45:684–686.

Villordon, A., J. Solis, D. La Bonte, and C. Clark. 2010. Development of a prototype bayesian network model representing the relationship between fresh market yield and some agroclimatic variables known to influence storage root initiation in sweetpotato. Hortscience 45:1167–1177.

McGregor, C.E., D.W. Miano, D.R.. LaBonte, M. Hoy, C. A. Clark, and G.J.M. Rosa. 2010. Differential gene expression of resistant and susceptible sweetpotato plants after infection with the causal agents of sweetpotato virus disease. J. Am. Soc. Hort. Sci. 134:658–666.

Villordon, A., D. La Bonte, N. Firon, Y.Kfir, E. Pressman, and A. Schwartz. 2009. Characterization of adventitious root development in sweetpotato. HortScience 44:651-655.

Villordon, A., D. LaBonte, and N. Firon. 2009. Development of a simple thermal time method for describing the onset of morpho-anatomical features related to sweetpotato storage root formation. Scientia Horticulturae 121:374-377.

McGregor, C., D. Miano, D. LaBonte, M. Hoy, and C. Clark. 2009. The effect of the causal agent of Sweetpotato Virus Disease on symtom severity and individual virus titres in sweetpotato cv. Beauregard. J. Phytopathology (in press)

Villordon, A., C. Clark, D. Ferrin, and D. LaBonte. 2009. Using growing degree days, agrometeorological variables, linear regression, and data mining methods to help improve prediction of sweetpotato harvest data in Louisiana. HortTechnology (in press).

Courtney, M., M. Mcharo, W. Gruneberg, and D. La Bonte. 2008. Heritability estimates for micronutrient composition of sweetpotato storage roots. HortScience 43:1382-1384.

Miano, D.W., D.R. La Bonte, and C.A. Clark. 2008. Identification of molecular markers associated with sweetpotato resistance to sweetpotato virus disease in Kenya. Euphytica 160:15-24.

La Bonte, D.R., C.A. Clark, A.Q. Villordon, and P.W. Wilson. 2008. Evangeline sweetpotato. HortScience 43:258-259.

La Bonte, D.R., C.A. Clark, A.Q. Villordon, P.W. Wilson, and C.S. Stoddard. 2008. Murasaki-29 sweetpotato. HortScience 43:1895-1896.

Lockwood, S., J.M. King, and D.R. LaBonte. 2008. Altering pasting characteristics of sweetpotato starches through amino acid additives. J. Food Sci. 73:373-377.

Book Chapters

N. Firon, Y. Kfir, and E. Pressman, D. LaBonte, A. Villordon and C. McGregor. 2009. Storage root formation and development. In: (G. Loebenstein and G. Thottappilly) The Sweetpotato. Springer Verlag Press

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.

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The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture