Summary of Awards to Date

Participatory modeling and decision support for improving sweetpotato productin efficiency, quality and food safety.

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Date

Sep. 1, 2009 - Aug. 31, 2012

Award Number

LAB04003

Funding Agency

USDA - CSREES

Amount Awarded

$2,841,987.00

Investigator

Tara Smith
Louisiana State University

Co-Investigator(s)

Villordon, A., Clark, C., Labonte, D., Miller, D., Ferrin, D., Guidry, K., Davis, J., Arancibia, R., Schultheis, J., and Stoddard, S.

Summary

The historical significance and economic impact of the United States Sweetpotato Industry on the infrastructure of specialty crop agriculture cannot be overstated. The number of acres planted to sweetpotatoes was as high as 894,000 acres in the 1930's, but underwent significant decline after the postwar years and remained relatively stagnant until the 2000's. However, production and marketing trends in the last five years, generated by increasing public awareness of sweetpotato's health attributes, point to a promising increase in acreage. The majority of commercial production occurs in five states, including: North Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, California and Alabama, however, limited production occurs in many states across the southeastern United States. Many sweetpotato producers are considered family farmers and their respective operations contribute significantly to the lifeline of the surrounding rural communities in which they live. Unfortunately many small farmers in rural communities have gone out of business due to recent events including hurricanes and drought. Other losses were attributed to unsustainable marginal yields. Factors like acute labor shortages as well as spiraling production costs have reduced profit margins. The long term goal of this Coordinated Agricultural Project is to improve sweetpotato production efficiency through a comprehensive research and extension effort that focuses on three major themes: overcoming production limitations that reduce yield, improving root quality and safety, addressing emerging disease threats to productivity. Stakeholders will be actively involved in the development and execution of many research and all outreach activities proposed in this project. Their input was critical in developing a concentrated proposal which reflects the most pressing concerns of the U.S. sweetpotato industry, and will indeed be beneficial as we address specific objectives outlined in the proposed research.