Skip to main content

A Patented Winner

Craig Yencho, a renowned sweetpotato and potato researcher with North Carolina State University, has been selected as a 2023 fellow in the National Academy of Inventors. NAI fellows are honored for the societal and economic impact of their inventions. 

Yencho is the co-recipient of more than 55 U.S. and international plant patents. He has participated in the development and release of 45 sweetpotato and potato varieties. 

Yencho is a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor at NC State and faculty member in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Horticultural Science. He serves as program leader for the university’s sweetpotato and potato breeding and genetics programs.

For more than 20 years, Yencho has conducted research in Africa, leading multinational teams focused on improving sweetpotatoes in Sub-Saharan Africa and developing new genomic tools that African sweetpotato breeders can use on the continent.

In 2005, Yencho and colleague Ken Pecota released the Covington sweetpotato, a variety now grown in 90% of North Carolina sweetpotato fields and on 20% of U.S. sweetpotato acreage. Covington sweetpotatoes have generated over $3.5 billion in revenue for North Carolina sweetpotato growers. The crop is exported to Europe and used in a variety of products, including vodka. Yencho and Pecota received NC State’s 2021-22 Innovator of the Year award.

Craig Yencho gives a presentation at a recent field day
Craig Yencho gives a presentation at a recent field day.

Yencho will receive a medal at the National Academy of Inventors annual meeting in Raleigh on June 18, 2024, when a senior official with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office honors the 2023 class of fellows

He joins two previous inductees from the Department of Horticultural Science: Sylvia Blankenship (2018) and Thomas Ranney (2020). Other CALS inductees include Kenneth Swartzel (2019) and Rodolphe Barrangou (2019), both from the Department of Food Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences.

Since its inception in 2012, the NAI fellows program has grown to include 1,898 researchers and innovators, who hold over 63,000 U.S. patents and 13,000 licensed technologies. 

This post was originally published in College of Agriculture and Life Sciences News.