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NC State Research and Extension impact N.C. Sweet Potato Industry

Tangible Impact

Results Matter

Agriculture and the life sciences built North Carolina. We keep them growing.

When stakeholders need solutions for emerging issues or to identify new opportunities, they come to NC State. And our agricultural research and extension deliver – roughly a $27-to-1 return on investment.

The North Carolina Plant Sciences Initiative will help us deliver even greater outcomes in the future.

No Small Potatoes

Thanks to NC State research and Extension, North Carolina farmers produced 1.7 billion pounds of sweet potatoes in 2017, nearly double the 5.9 million grown in the state in 2005 (the year NC State’s Covington variety was introduced). That’s good business.
More than $350 million in sales to be exact, with an additional $170 million indirect economic impact. North Carolina farmers supply 60 percent of the nation’s total production and account for 70 percent of all sweet potato exports. They create jobs and are helping feed the world.

Infographic titled: How plant science works: a sweet (potato) story of success in under 10 years.: Text starting from the top row left-side: 2005,Covington sweet potato developed by researchers at NC State. 2) Products: Covington fees, dog treats and even vodka become consumer success stories. 3) Added Value: NC State research helps patent an aseptic packaging process for sweet potato use. Starting from the bottom row, left-side: Extensions: Researchers at NC State are now developing an industrial sweet potato for biofuel. 2: Growth: Today, Covingtons make up 80 percent of the N.C. market and 20 percent of the nation's. 3: In 2014. The Gates Foundation gives NC State $12.4 million to develop a sweet potato for African farmers.

Outcome Metrics


  • Number of new plant varieties developed and disclosed for commercialization and breeding lines disclosed for breeding use by NC State and public and private breeders
  • The economic value of N.C. PSI-developed plant varieties and breeding lines
  • The number of county-level research demonstrations containing N.C. PSI-development varieties in rural communities
  • The number of novel technologies developed by N.C. PSI
  • Licensed patented technologies and any associated startups

Economic Development

  • Number of new regional plant sciences positions employed in North Carolina – both in private and public sectors
  • Growth in North Carolina employment and wage changes in the state’s plant sciences sector in comparison to the U.S.
  • Track changes in yield values for key North Carolina crops
  • Increased number and dollar value of sponsored research programs (commodity organizations, industry, government agencies) that engage CALS faculty in N.C PSI-relevant research and development
  • N.C. PSI financial gifts and support

Workforce Preparedness and Education

  • Increases in the number and career readiness of undergraduate, graduate and Agricultural Institute students focusing in plant science fields
  • Number of plant sciences-related credentials or certifications earned through NC Cooperative Extension programs
  • Number of NC Cooperative Extension-based plant sciences programs across the state