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Craig Yencho

Department of Horticultural Science

William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor

Program Leader Sweetpotato and Potato Breeding and Genetics Programs

Kilgore Hall 214A




Dr. Yencho has research responsibilities (100%) in sweetpotato and potato breeding and genetics. Research emphasis is on developing disease and insect resistant table-stock, processing and specialty-type sweetpotatoes and potatoes adapted to North Carolina’s growing conditions with improved root and tuber quality, respectively.

Research interests include plant breeding, plant resistance to insects and pathogens, use of wild and/or related plant germplasm as a source of commercially important traits, applications of genomics, molecular biology and plant biochemistry to plant breeding and the production of renewable, bio-based, value-added products in sweetpotato and potato, and international agricultural development.


Ph.D. Entomology/Plant Breeding (Minor) Cornell University 1993

M.S. Entomology Washington State University 1985

B.S. Bioscience Pennsylvania State University 1982


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Date: 02/03/22 - 6/30/27
Amount: $2,141,332.00
Funding Agencies: North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services

Award will fund 6 individual projects related to Guava Root-Knot Nematode: a)Renovation of Method Road Nematology Laboratory and Greenhouse Range facilities for work with the Guava Root-Knot Nematode (Meloidogyne enterolobii) b)Research Towards a Rapid, Species-specific, Field Deployable Test for GRKN and Advancement of Molecular Diagnostics for Soil and Sweetpotato Samples c)Evaluating Integrated Use of Fumigants, Nematicides, and Rotational Crops for Management of GRKN in Sweetpotato in the Field, Storage, and Pack House d)On-Farm Crop Rotation and Cover Crop Evaluations, and Sweetpotato Clone Evaluations to Manage Guava Root-Knot Nematode d)Breeding Resistance to GRKN and SRKN into a New Generation of High Quality, Marketable Sweetpotato Cultivars for NC Growers e)Guava Root-Knot Nematode: A County Operations Action Plan

Date: 01/15/21 - 1/14/26
Amount: $238,500.00
Funding Agencies: USDA - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

A Pipeline of a Resilient Workforce that integrates Advanced Analytics to the Agriculture, Food and Energy Supply Chain

Date: 09/01/21 - 8/31/25
Amount: $5,011,710.00
Funding Agencies: USDA - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

We propose to deploy genomic and phenomic tools as an integrated approach for the development of superior sweetpotato varieties with robust resistance to M. enterolobii and M. incognita, and high storage root yield, shape and quality attributes that command a high market value. Beyond identifying the genetic components underpinning these traits, a breeding approach that accounts for the complex genetics of polyploidy (e.g. allele dose-dependent phenotypes) will be designed for combining multiple desirable traits in a single genetic background (i.e. multi-trait selection). This is particularly important in sweetpotato where a single important trait can break an otherwise remarkable variety. Resistance to GRKN and SRKNwill be studied within the context of a holistic nematode management strategy that maximizes economic and farm sustainability

Date: 03/01/05 - 2/28/25
Amount: $203,500.00
Funding Agencies: NC Potato Association

This proposal is to request continuing support for the North Carolina potato breeding and variety development program. Funds are requested to: 1) continue in-house and collaborative potato breeding and variety development projects with the USDA/ARS, University of Maine and Cornell University potato breeding programs; and 2) conduct the NE-1014 Regional Potato Variety Development Trials and the NC Potato Variety Trials. These projects are focused on developing improved varieties for NC potato growers.

Date: 02/01/19 - 1/31/25
Amount: $37,050.00
Funding Agencies: NC Crop Improvement Association, Inc.

Meloidogyne enterolobii (syn. M. mayaguensis), commonly known as the Guava Root Knot Nematode (GRKN), is a newly introduced root-knot nematode (RKN) that is highly virulent against widely-used RKN resistant crop varieties. M. enterolobii has been reported in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Louisiana. In North Carolina, it has been detected in fields in Columbus, Johnston, Wayne and Wilson counties. These counties are located in the sweetpotato growing belt in North Carolina and significant damage to sweetpotato production can be caused by GRKN. Resistant sweetpotato varieties need to be developed to help NC sweetpotato growers to win the battle against M. enterolobii. In this research project, we are going to: 1) develop an efficient screening protocol for selection of GRKN-resistant sweetpotato clones from breeding populations; 2) conduct studies to identify DNA markers for M. enterolobii resistance in sweetpotato by screening a genetic mapping population from Tanzania x Beauregard with known resistance to GRKN derive from the African land race cultivar Tanzania; 3) initiate preliminary work to establish DNA marker-assisted selection for GRKN-resistant sweetpotato clones.

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