Sweet potato researcher joins the LSU AgCenter

(01/30/23) BATON ROUGE, La. — Amid a sweet potato season hit hard by volatile weather patterns, the LSU AgCenter added a new researcher to focus on the management of diseases in Louisiana’s most lucrative food crop.

Imana Power was appointed in September as an assistant professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology. She is gearing her work toward developing disease resistance, producing “clean” plants and minimizing cultivar decline in sweet potatoes.

Her appointment is 80% research and 20% teaching.

Power earned her graduate degree in ecological phytopathology from Wageningen University and Research Center in the Netherlands, where she worked on biocontrol of soilborne wilt. In 2014, she received her doctorate in plant pathology from the University of Georgia, where she characterized peanut rust resistance.

As a postdoctoral research associate in the National Peanut Research Laboratory, she worked on RNAi against aflatoxin production by Aspergillus flavus.

Afterward, she moved back to her home country, Suriname, and worked at the Center for Agricultural Research as head of its plant pathology laboratory and as the institute director. Her research focused on developing in-field molecular detection tools to better manage diseases of root and tuber crops such as banana, cassava and ginger.

Tara Smith, research coordinator at the AgCenter Sweet Potato Research Station, said Power is a welcome addition during a crucial time for the sweet potato industry in the state.

“Dr. Power is a great addition to our sweet potato research and extension team in the AgCenter,” Smith said. “Viruses and diseases contribute to yield reductions and quality issues in the crop. Also, clean seed is a critical foundation for a sustainable and productive sweet potato production system.”

For her part, Power is up to the task of providing Louisiana farmers with the knowledge and tools they need in the event of increasing weather pattern uncertainty.

“Understanding the current needs of the Louisiana sweet potato industry and anticipating — possibly re-emerging — challenges is crucial for optimal and impactful disease management,” she said. “The effects of changing weather patterns on disease development and management is one example.”

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Imana Power was appointed as an assistant professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology. LSU AgCenter photo

1/30/2023 3:21:26 PM
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