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Why sweetpotato?

The sweetpotato [Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam.] is one of the world’s principal root and tuber crops. It is the world’s seventh most important food crop, with more than 133 million tonnes produced globally per year, mostly in the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa and East and Southeast Asia.

What we achieved


  • 115 samples of 11 sweetpotato crop wild relatives (CWR) were collected in 11 countries: Brazil, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Kenya, Malaysia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan and Vietnam.

Pre-breeding and evaluation

  • 18,623 crosses were made between cultivated sweetpotato cultivars and sweetpotato crop wild relatives (CWR), of which 5,068 were successful.
  • The findings provide a roadmap for future pre-breeding efforts for a wide range of traits using sweetpotato CWR.
  • Evaluation of cultivated sweetpotato cultivars and CWR found that cultivated varieties generally had greater drought tolerance than CWR, possibly due to the role of their storage roots. However, two CWR species tolerated drought well and have good potential for use in breeding drought-tolerant sweetpotato varieties.
  • Screening identified several CWR with high levels of resistance to Sweetpotato virus disease, a major disease in sweetpotato.
  • Seeds of the crosses generated have been conserved in International Potato Center (CIP) genebank for sharing with global users through SMTA. 

Project partners


  • Embrapa Genetic Resources and Biotechnology, Brasilia, Brazil
  • Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Agropecuarias, Estación Experimental Santa Catalina, D. Mejia, Ecuador
  • Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • Plant Genetic Resources Research Institute, Accra, Ghana
  • Instituto de Ciencia y Tecnología Agrícolas, Villa Nueva, Guatemala
  • Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization, Nairobi, Kenya
  • Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • National Agriculture Genetic Resources Center, Khumaltar, Nepal
  • National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology, Ibadan, Nigeria
  • Plant Genetic Resources Program, Bio-Resources Conservation Institute, Islamabad, Pakistan
  • Plant Resources Center, Hanoi, Vietnam

Pre-breeding and evaluation 

Lead Institute: International Potato Center, Lima, Peru


  • Department of Horticulture, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA

Sweetpotato key collections, materials and data

Sweetpotato collections

  • The largest sweetpotato collection is conserved in the CIP genebank.
  • The Genesys PGR database also includes information about sweetpotato accessions in genebanks worldwide

Pre-breeding materials 

  • All pre-breeding materials are conserved in the CIP genebank, Peru.


Sweet Potato stories

Partner stories
Relevant publications
  • Wu, S., Lau, K.H., Cao, Q., Hamilton, J.P., Sun, H., Zhou, C., Eserman, L., Gemenet, D.C., Olukolu, B.A., Wang, H., Crisovan, E., Godden, G.T., Jiao, C., Wang, X., Kitavi, M., Manrique-Carpintero, N., Vaillancourt, B., Wiegert-Rininger, K., Yang, X., Bao, K., Schaff, J., Kreuze, J., Gruneberg, W., Khan, A., Ghislain, M., Ma, D., Jiang, J., Mwanga, R.O.M., Leebens-Mack, J., Coin, J.J.M., Yencho, G.C., Buell, C.R., Fei, Z. 2018. Genome sequences of two diploid wild relatives of cultivated sweetpotato reveal targets for genetic improvement. Nature Communications 9:4580. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-06983-8.
  • Boateng, S.K., Aboagye, L.M., Egbadzor, K.F., Darko, R.K., Ameka, G.K., Ekpe, P., Kanton, R., Dogbe, W., Saaka-Buah, S. 2019. Collecting of crop wild relatives and minor crops in Ghana. Research in Agricultural & Veterinary Sciences 3(2): 89–95.
  • Guerrero-Zurita, F., Ramírez, D.A., Rinza, J., Ninanya, J., Blas, R., Heider, B. 2020. Potential short-term memory induction as a promising method for increasing drought tolerance in sweetpotato crop wild relatives [Ipomoea series Batatas (Choisy) D. F. Austin]. Frontiers in Plant Science 11: 1326.
  • Nhanala, S.E.C., Yencho, G.C. 2021. Assessment of the potential of wild Ipomoea spp. for the improvement of drought tolerance in cultivated sweetpotato Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam. Crop Science 61(1): 234–249.
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