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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Woodbury

Capacity-building Efforts between NCPN-SP and the CleanSEED Program

The mission of NCPN-SP is to “conduct diagnostic and pathogen elimination services and to

establish foundational planting stock of pathogen-tested plant materials to supply nurseries, growers, and state certification programs.” However, until now, there has been limited funding available to Clean Plant Centers to support research and Extension activities. A NIFA-Specialty Crop Research Initiative titled CleanSEED was awarded to address current and future challenges of providing clean foundation seed to the U.S. sweetpotato industry. This $4.8 million grant provides funding for research and Extension activities to all NCPN-SP Centers in Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, affiliates at USDA-ARS, crop protection associations, and the United States Sweetpotato Council. The CleanSEED Project, funded for 2022 to 2026, is directed by Dr. Mark Shankle and Dr. Lorin Harvey, Mississippi State University.

Scott Ellison, David Ellison, and John Ellison (left to right) with E3 Farms in Woodland, MS.

Helping more sweetpotato farmers adopt clean seed technology through increased awareness and education is one of the short-term goals identified by the multidisciplinary CleanSEED research team. The connection between NCPN-SP and the CleanSEED Project allows more engagement across the industry to standardize clean foundation seed terminology, improve best practices for efficient propagation strategies, reduce virus reinfection rate, manage pests and diseases, and develop efficient virus detection methods for use in the field (rapid tests). The CleanSEED Project will work closely with the NCPN Education and Outreach Committee to develop professional communication products based on the research results.

Dr. Varsha Singh was recently hired at the Mississippi NCPN-SP Center to manage the virus indexing program and tissue culture laboratory at the Pontotoc Ridge-Flatwoods Branch Experiment Station, Mississippi State University.

Ultimately, Shankle and the team aim to improve seed quality, yield, and generational longevity of seed stock.

“With each generation of saved storage roots for seed, the risk of virus levels in the seed increases,” Dr. Shankle explained. “Depending on the virus type and level of infection, sweetpotato yield can be reduced by more than 40%. That is why supplying growers with clean seed is so important.”

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