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The Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potato: Disease Threats and Usefulness for Feeding Africa

Wilmer Cuellar: International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)

<div>Sweetpotato is known as the classic food security crop. In Africa, it is the crop that is there when the maize fails, but it also helped Americans survive the 1930s depression, the Chinese survive famine in the 1960s, and the Rwandans recover from genocide in the 1990s. Orange-fleshed types are a rich source of pro-vitamin A, being used in integrated agriculture-nutrition efforts to combat vitamin A deficiency in developing countries. There are over 30 known viruses of sweetpotato, many of which are symptomless and most synergized when combined with <em>Sweet Potato Chlorotic Stunt Virus (SPCSV)</em>, which is the mediator of severe, yield declining virus disease. Advances in detection of specific viruses, in conventional breeding for virus resistance, and in managing viruses through improved “seed systems” have been significant during the past decade. Under climate change, these efforts need to intensify, with greater attention paid to understanding the behavior of white flies and aphids, the key virus vectors, and determining the economic relevance of emerging and understudied viruses.</div>