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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Woodbury

LSU AgCenter transitions sweetpotato growers from seed to clean plants

The Louisiana State University (LSU) AgCenter Sweet Potato Research Station was established in 1949. Dr. Julian C. Miller, the first successful sweetpotato breeder in the United States, saw a need for a dedicated unit that would service the needs of the sweetpotato industry in Louisiana. In 2024, the station, located in Chase, LA, commemorates 75 years and remains dedicated to advancing the sweetpotato industry through foundation seed production, research, and support. Traditionally, the foundation seed mission was achieved primarily by providing clean seed in the form of virus-tested root stock to producers as bedding material. The station joined NCPN-SP in 2015, as one of seven national Clean Plant Centers for sweetpotatoes nationwide. Affiliation with NCPN has allowed for significant improvements in greenhouse slip production and a transition of the foundation seed program to a more efficient plant-based model, thereby expanding its influence and reach. The station is currently led by Research Coordinator Dr. Tara Smith, and Cole Gregorie, Extension Sweetpotato Specialist and foundation seed coordinator.

Virus therapy, tissue culture propagation, and virus testing are conducted at the Sweetpotato Pathology Laboratory on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge, following a complete document management system. Sweetpotato accessions are maintained as virus-tested tissue cultures in routine maintenance collection and in a long-term maintenance collection in specialized growth chambers. In the winter, virus-tested plants are sent to the Sweetpotato Research Station in Chase, in north-central Louisiana, to be increased in protected greenhouses. Plant production is aided by the use of special LED grow lights that provide supplemental light. The targeted milestones for Louisiana are aimed at attaining the maximum foundation plant production that existing infrastructure currently supports. The Research Station at Chase produces more than 100,000 vine cuttings annually for sale to growers in the region and grows approximately 30 acres of foundation seed roots also for sale to stakeholders. The NCPN-SP activities are currently led by Dr. Imana Power, Catherine DeRobertis, and Elaisa Tubana.


Clean plant harvest at the LSU AgCenter Sweetpotato Pathology Laboratory, Sweetpotato Research Center Station, Chase, LA.
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