Don La Bonte has bred lots of sweet potato varieties in his three-decade career with the LSU AgCenter, including several that have proven big hits with the industry.
But he’s always looking to improve on even the most popular varieties.
“The challenge is to try to continually push those boundaries to get that variety that’s got that amazing ease of production and also something that consumers want,” said La Bonte, a professor in the School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences.
Varieties not only need to have good yields and be resistant to pest problems. They also should look and taste good.
It can be difficult to combine all of the traits that farmers, retailers and consumers want. But “it’s a really fun challenge to try and meet that objective,” La Bonte said.
He has found that sweet potato breeding is the perfect marriage of two of his interests: science and art.
“There’s a really good element of art involved in this, picking out the different shapes, colors,” he said. “You have to have an eye for something that’s attractive.”
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture