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Priorities for Sweetpotato Research in Developing Countries: Results of a Survey

Fuglie, K.O.
HortScience 2007 v.42 no.5 pp. 1200
Ipomoea batatas, sweet potatoes, developing countries, agricultural research, crop management, technology transfer, innovation adoption, farmers, small-scale farming, farm surveys, plant viruses, disease resistance, food processing, propagation materials, crop yield, China
International institutions like the International Potato Center (CIP) strive to provide "global public goods" in the form of improved technologies applicable to large regions of the developing world. To identify priorities for sweetpotato improvement, CIP conducted a survey of knowledgeable scientists in developing countries to elicit their perspectives on the most important constraints facing poor and small-scale sweetpotato growers in their countries. Respondents scored productivity and other constraints according to their importance in the region or country where they worked. Mean and weighted mean scores were estimated to provide a group judgment of the most important constraints facing sweetpotato farmers in developing countries. The survey results showed that there are a few key needs facing farmers in all major sweetpotato producing areas, but there are other very important needs specific to certain regions. The needs that scored highest in all or most of the major sweetpotato producing areas in developing countries are: i) control of viruses (through varietal resistance, quality planting material, and crop management); ii) small-enterprise development for sweetpotato processing; iii) improvement in availability and quality of sweetpotato planting material; and iv) improved cultivars exhibiting high and stable yield potential. Some differences emerged, however, in priority needs of the two major centers of sweetpotato production: Additional priorities for sub-Saharan Africa include improved control of the sweetpotato weevil and cultivars with high ss-carotene content to address vitamin A deficiency. For China, other top needs are: i) conservation and characterization of genetic resources; ii) prebreeding; iii) cultivars with high starch yield; and iv) new product development. The different sets of priorities reflect differences in the role of sweetpotato in the rural economy and also different capacities of the agricultural research system in these regions of the world. Compared with earlier surveys, there now seems to be a greater need for postharvest utilization research, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, partly reflecting a demand constraint due to the crop's status as an inferior food.