Australian sweetpotato production, which comes almost entirely from Queensland and New South Wales, achieves the highest commercial yields in the world.

These high yields are driven by a range of factors, including  the provision of disease-free planting material. By taking proactive action to prevent viruses and other damaging impacts on sprout multiplication, the industry can improve the overall productivity of planting beds, further improving overall yields.

To help growers increase their yields, a recently concluded levy-funded project led by Australian Sweetpotato Growers has investigated virus occurrence and threats to the Australian sweetpotato industry. It also explored new techniques for detecting viruses.

By monitoring grower plant beds over four years, the project’s virology team surveyed viruses present in the Australian industry and studied how they varied geographically and across the season. The team assessed production of planting material and problems that arose during the seasons, such as plant bed breakdown.

Their research demonstrated that sprout multiplication could be improved by as much as 25 per cent by:

  • Constructing higher, well-drained plant beds.
  • Only covering bedding roots with 3-5cm of soil.
  • Erring on the side of under-watering until sprouts have emerged.
  • Keeping soil temperatures between 17-26°C in spring by careful use of plastic covers.

In addition to its research work, during the course of the project the researchers were involved in 24 industry field days and workshops to help communicate project activities and findings to growers. The project also developed collaborative relationships with sweetpotato researchers at several Australian universities, neighbouring Pacific countries, and particularly scientists from Louisiana State University in the US. The latter were involved in several reciprocal visits over the project’s four years.

The project, funded by Hort Innovation using a strategic levy investment, produced a wide range of fact sheets and guides for sweetpotato growers, along with a final report, literature review and other valuable documentation. You can access all these resources on the Australian Sweetpotato Growers website.

This information first appeared in Hort Innovation’s quarterly Hortlink publication, available in full online. Stay in the loop by becoming a member of Hort Innovation – paying a levy doesn’t automatically make you a member, but signing up is free and easy on the Hort Innovation website.

This post appeared in the AUSVEG Weekly Update published 31 July 2018. Subscribe to the Update using our online form to receive the latest industry news in your inbox every week!