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Alcorn scientists' study of yams makes research publication

LORMAN — A study by Alcorn State University researchers, which examines what happens to the sweet potato plant when it is sprayed with a chemical that reduces the amount of vegetative growth, was recently published in the African Journal of Agricultural Research, Vol. 7(15), pp. 2372-2379.

This study was conducted by Drs. Victor N. Njiti, Qun Xia and Ming Gao. Contributing to this study were: Andrea Tenner, former undergraduate student; Leonna Tyler, graduate student; Lakeisha Stewart, laboratory assistant; and, Antione Tenner, field technician.

Njiti said, “We believe that reducing vine growth in sweet potatoes will result in using more of the food that the plant makes to feeding and growing the storage root (the edible part of sweet potato). We also believe that reducing vine growth will make harvesting easier and reduce the cost associated with harvesting sweet potatoes.”

The expected impact of this research will include increasing sweet production, reducing sweet potato harvest cost, and the potential to understand the factors (genes) that control the initiation and growth of the sweet potatoes storage root. The growth reducing chemical used in the research is very cheap and the amount sprayed is very small.

“The sweet potato is an herbaceous plant that produces a mass of long and interlocking vines under fertile soil. This mass of vegetative materials presents a number of problems,” added Njiti.  “It makes harvesting more difficult and expensive. Additional investment must be made in purchasing vine disposal equipment and more time is invested in clipping the vines prior to harvesting.”

Failure to clip the vines prior to harvesting will result in reducing the amount and quality of the harvest. The herbaceous plants manufacture food in the green leaves using sun light. The food is used to feed vegetative and reproductive parts. In the case of sweet potatoes, some of the food is used to grow the storage root, which is the economical part of sweet potato. The more the amount of vegetative materials that the sweet potato produces, the more the amount of food needed to feed these vegetative materials and less food left to grow the storage root (the part of the plant that is consumed).

The chemical is only absorbed by the green parts of the plant and does not persist in the environment. It has been used to reduce pruning time and fruit size in many fruit trees including apples. It has also been used to increase row visibility and harvest efficiency in peanuts.

“We hope to show that it can be used to increase storage root production and harvest efficiency in sweet potatoes,” Njiti said.


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