University of the Philippines Los Baños

Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is an Asian crop considered as an important staple food in most countries. Originating from Central America, it is a herbaceous perennial vine that has white and purple flowers, large nutritious storage roots, and heart-shaped lobed leaves. It is now widely grown in tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate regions, including the Philippines. In fact, the volume of production of sweet potato in the Philippines in 2012 was 516,365.52 metric tons.

Throughout Asia, people process sweet potato for snacks such as chips or animal feeds. Its tubers contain carbohydrates (21 g), protein (2 g), sodium (36 mg), Vitamin A (19,218), Vitamin C (20 mg), and calcium (38 mg). Sweet potato is rich in dietary fiber, calcium, complex carbohydrates, and anti-oxidants. According to Shahidul Islam, the young tops of the upper growth- the leafy vegetables – is rich in vitamin B, ßcarotene, iron, calcium, zinc and protein.

UPLB through the Institute of Plant Breeding, is continuously developing new and improved varieties that are resistant to pests and maximizing the potential of sweet potato in the country.

Since its establishment in 1974, IPB has developed and released as commercial varieties of the National Seed Industry Council (NSIC) nine varieties of sweet potato. These included varieties for food, feed, and industrial uses. A pioneer breeder in rootcrops was Dr. Azucena Carpena, now UPLB Professor Emeritus.

Since 2008, IPB has began conducting a study on Purple Sweet Potato. Leading the breeding team is Dr. Antonio Lalusin, a university researcher from the Crop Science Cluster. Dr. Lalusin started the development by cross breeding Haponita II (Sweet potato from Japan) x White sweet potato until they came up with a Purple Sweet Potato. “We are now testing its growth, yield performance, reaction to soil and climatic conditions in 10 regional locations”, he said. In 2011, the test variety SG-08-09- 11 was field tested in 10 regional locations nationwide. This is a requirement by the National Seed Industry Council before a variety is approved.

According to Dr. Lalusin, the purple sweet potato can grow in 105 days during the dry season and in 120 days during the wet season. “This is a good food crop for many Filipinos because it can survive with less inputs and less management. Because of its purple color, it can also be used as an extender in cooking “ube,” he said.

The latest product of their breeding efforts is now registered as SG-08-09- 11 at the Germplasm and Technology Registration and Release Office of IPB. And in the pipeline of Dr. Lalusin’s team are other purple sweet potato varieties – for the Filipino consumers.

Sources: ph/selection.asp