The sweetpotato pre-breeding work of the project is conducted by a team of scientists from North Carolina State University in the United States and the International Potato Center (CIP) in Peru. The sweetpotato pre-breeding work occurred between 2014 and 2018.
Sweetpotato is an important subsistence and food security crop for many smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. It is a widely adapted, hardy crop with high yield potential, low input requirements, and the capacity to produce more edible energy per hectare than any of the other major staple food crops. In spite of its value and large annual production of 19 million tons in Africa, its production is limited by biotic and abiotic factors that result in large yield gaps across the African continent.
The objective of the sweet potato pre-breeding project is to make systematic use of biotic and abiotic stress resistance traits identified in wild sweetpotato germplasm to create more adaptive parental breeding stocks for future breeding programs. Many sweetpotato wild relatives possess high levels of resistance and abiotic stress tolerance, and their use has the potential to broaden the genetic diversity of cultivated sweetpotato and increase the resilience of sweetpotato production globally. A number of wild sweetpotato species will be used in this project to create interspecific hybrids, including Ipomoea cordatotriloba, Ipomoea cynanchifolia, Ipomoea grandifolia, Ipomoea trifida, Ipomoea umbraticola, and others. The interspecific hybrids will be phenotyped for heat stress resistance traits, and these breeding materials will also be genotyped to facilitate future allele introgression. Finally, a pre-breeding strategy will be developed to transfer target heat resistance traits into an elite cultivated background with virus resistance and high beta-carotene content.