Sweet potato ideal crop to plant in dry seasons — Caribbean study

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Sweet potato ideal crop to plant in dry seasons — Caribbean study
Cricket Gill, A drought-tolerant variety from the study

Kingston, Jamaica — Sweet potato is one crop that Caribbean farmers should plant as the region experiences more severe and frequent dry seasons.

This is one of the key findings from Dr. Angela Alleyne’s research into the molecular characterization of the crop.

Her research, which covered 15 varieties of sweet potato across five Caribbean countries, was presented at a webinar held by the Investment Plan for the Caribbean Regional Track of the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience on Wednesday, July 8.

Coming out of this research it was discovered that there are drought-tolerant varieties currently under commercial production in Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, and St. Lucia.

Hucky, a drought-tolerant variety from the study. This variety is grown in Grenada.

Another finding is that with the exception of the “Uplifter” variety in Jamaica, yellow-fleshed sweet potatoes in this study did not have the drought-tolerant gene.

The specific varieties from each country which contained the drought-tolerant gene are: “Cricket Gill” and “Hucky” from Grenada, “Ganja” and “Fire on Land” from Jamaica, “SDPW-01” and “SRDY-DOM” from Dominica, and “SSLYY” from St. Lucia.

Sweet potato bread – this is made with grated sweet potato, mixed with wheat flour. Training on making this product are held annually.

Dr. Greg Robin, Jamaica country representative of the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), explained that sweet potato was selected for the study as it is considered a superfood. While it is normally compared to Irish potato, it is higher in complex carbohydrates.

Dr. Robin went on to add that “where sweet potato and Irish potato are not comparable, sweet potato is superior in calcium, iron, vitamin A and vitamin E”.
Dr. Robin’s presentation also highlighted that the Caribbean imported approximately USD$57.4 million worth of sweet potatoes in 2019, a gap that regional producers should see as an income opportunity.

He added that with the exception of Jamaica, the Caribbean is producing less sweet potatoes than the global average.

Sweet potato fields under cultivation

The Investment Plan for the Caribbean Regional Track of the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience is a USD$10.9 million, five-year project, executed through the Project Management Unit of UWI’s Mona Office of Research and Innovation.

Project funding comes from the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), with financial oversight from the Inter-American Development Bank.

The project oversees six countries: Jamaica, Haiti, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica and St. Lucia.

— Jean-Pierre Kavanaugh, visibility and PR consultant for the Investment Plan for the Caribbean Regional Track of the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience

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