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CALS is part of award-winning research project

A multistate research project in which College of Agriculture and Life Sciences faculty members play a major role has received the 2013 Excellence in Multistate Research Award given by the Experiment Station Committee on Organization and Policy of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges.

The National Sweetpotato Collaborators Conference was honored during the annual meeting of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) Nov. 10-12 in Washington, D.C. The award recognizes outstanding research collaboration among state agriculture experiment stations in projects that two or more states share as a priority.

The Sweetpotato Collaborators Conference was initiated in 1939 to exchange information about all aspects of sweet potato production and post-harvest research and extension. The collaborators group is led by faculty from North Carolina State University, the Louisiana State University AgCenter, Mississippi State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agriculture Research Service.

Among the most important conference activities is evaluating new sweet potato selections, and conference members have released 94 new sweet potato varieties. The group also addresses critical production and pest management issues related to disease, insect and weed control. Through the years, the group has developed successful management strategies for the sweet potato weevil and screening methods for diseases such as soil rot and Fusarium wilt.

The conference also works to keep farmers informed of research findings. Collaborators have collectively published more than 1,000 refereed and extension publications that reach growers and the global research community.

CALS faculty members active in the conference are Dr. Roger Batts, IR-4 Field Research Director in the Department of Horticultural Science; Dr. Mike Boyette, professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering; Dr. Edmund Estes, professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics; Dr. Craig Yencho, sweet potato breeder and professor of Horticultural Science; and Dr. Van-Den Truong, USDA professor of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences.

CALS has a long history of sweet potato breeding, and Covington, a variety developed by Yencho, is by far the most widely grown variety in North Carolina. At the same time, Boyette developed sweet potato storage techniques that have allowed growers store sweet potatoes for long periods and take advantage of market windows when prices are high.