Plant sweet potato in dry season, says researcher

Plant sweet potato in dry season, says researcher

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

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Sweet potato is one crop that farmers in Jamaica, and other Caribbean territories, should plant as the region experiences more severe and frequent dry seasons.

This is one of the key findings from Dr Angela Alleyne's research into the molecular characterisation of the crop.

Her findings, which covered 15 varieties of sweet potato across five Caribbean countries, were presented at a webinar held recently by the Investment Plan for the Caribbean Regional Track of the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience.

Coming out of this research it was discovered that there are drought-tolerant varieties currently under commercial production in Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica and St Lucia. Another finding is that, with the exception of the Uplifter variety in Jamaica, yellow-fleshed sweet potatoes in this study did not have the drought-tolerant gene.

The specific varieties from each country which contained the drought-tolerant gene are: Cricket Gill and Hucky from Grenada, Ganja and Fire on Land from Jamaica, SDPW-01 and SRDY-DOM from Dominica, and SSLYY from St Lucia.

Dr Greg Robin, Jamaica country representative of the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), explained that sweet potato was selected for the study as it is considered a superfood. While it is normally compared to Irish potatoes, it is higher in complex carbohydrates. Dr Robin went on to add that “where sweet potato and Irish potato are not comparable, sweet potato is superior in calcium, iron, vitamin A and vitamin E”.

Dr Robin's presentation also highlighted that the Caribbean imported approximately US$57.4 million worth of sweet potatoes in 2019, a gap that regional producers should see as an income opportunity. He added that with the exception of Jamaica, the Caribbean is producing less sweet potatoes than the global average.

The Investment Plan for the Caribbean Regional Track of the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience is a US$10.9-million, five-year project, executed through the Project Management Unit of The University of the West Indies' Mona Office of Research and Innovation. Project funding comes from the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), with financial oversight from the Inter-American Development Bank.

The project oversees six countries: Jamaica, Haiti, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica and St Lucia.

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