Researchers at Canada’s Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland) are developing a new sweet potato that is better adapted to the country’s shorter and cooler growing season, as well as varieties that are better-suited for the processing sector.
It is hoped the research will help give Canadian growers a competitive boost and reduce import dependence
Vineland research scientist Dr. Valerio Primomo said the sweet potato breeding program, which is now in its third year, had moved into the critical stage of farm trials in Ontario.
“So far we have screened over 2,500 sweet potato seeds, some of them acquired from our Louisiana State University collaborators, for several traits including flesh colour, shape quality, days to maturity, dry matter content and sugar content,” he said.
“We have reduced the sample size to 15 top-performing varieties that are being evaluated by our partners throughout this summer including three growers in Southern Ontario and one in Nova Scotia.”
Sweet potatoes – including Covington, the main variety grown in Canada – require a long season to mature and are susceptible to chilling injury at temperatures below 12°C (53.6°F).
A release explained that at present only varieties from the U.S. are used for processing sweet potato, adding a Canadian fresh fruit and vegetable processor called Pride Pak had shown interest in sourcing sweet potatoes grown in the country.
“Once the 15 selected sweet potato varieties have been evaluated by the growers, we will process and test them for cutting ease, packaging and shelf-life,” said Pride Pak founder Steven Karr.
Vineland’s Consumer Insights team will undertake sensory and consumer evaluation on sweet potato fries beginning in November.
Using the 15 varieties, they will create a preference map to define sensory attributes that drive consumers’ liking for sweet potato fries.
Consumer preference results will be integrated with agronomic performance and used to guide the sweet potato breeding program.
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