b'A Growing Appetite for Sweet PotatoesThe Canadian sweet potato industry is preparing itself to expand with a newvariety developed specifically for the countrys climate. BY: SHEL ZOLKEWICHSWEET POTATO CONSUMPTION in North America has doubled in the last decadewhich is good news for Canadian growers. But the celebration doesnt stop there, as a made-in-Canada variety of the root vegetable is showing excellent yields in recent trials. Radiance, a variety developed by Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in Ontario in collaboration with Louisiana State University AgCenter, is bred specifically for Canadas shorter growing season. The sweet potato is a tropical plant native to Central and South America, with most commercial production occurring in warmer regions with long frost-free periods. The most common varieties grown in Canada are Covington and Orleans. They take up to 132 days to reach maturity, which is cutting it close when it comes to frost free days.In 2012, we started a breeding program to identify sweet potato geneticValerio Primomo, a material that could be harvested earlier, says Valerio Primomo, a researchresearch scientist and scientist and vegetable breeder at Vineland. With a harvest in October, grow- vegetable breeder at ers face the threat of chilling injury that causes the potatoes to rot in storage.Vineland was involved with developing Radiance. Radiance can be harvested in September. PHOTO: VINELANDRESEARCH ANDThe new variety matures up to 20 days earlier than other varieties INNOVATION CENTREdepending on heat units during the growing season. Field trials over the last few years have yielded promising results. Trials during the 2019 growing season focused on plant density (single row versus double row), optimal in-row plant spacing, the use of black plastic and long-term storage. It was determined that by planting Radiance in early June, using awell as the two traditional varieties. But it was in total marketable yield where double-row with an in-row spacing of 30 cm, produced higher yields of UnitedRadiance stole the spotlight. States Grade #1 than those planted 20 and 25 cm apart. Black plastic alsoWe found that the total marketable yield of Radiance was higher than increases soil temperatures which helps sweet potato roots mature earlier inCovington and Orleans for both early and late plantings with single and Canadian provinces with cooler climates. Radiance also held up in storage asdouble rows at all spacings, Primomo says. Radiance also performed extremely well in consumer trials. Consumers preferred its deep red skin tone, vibrant orange flesh and taste compared to current leading varieties.Radiance is a With demand growing and Radiance showing promising results, Canada new sweet potato is well positioned to grow more sweet potatoes at home, reducing the need for variety developedimports. In 2018, more than 2,000 acres of sweet potatoes were planted in specifically for Canadas colder climate.Canada, generating $21 million in farm gate sales. The majority of acres are PHOTO: VINELAND RESEARCH grown in Ontario, with British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec and Nova Scotia AND INNOVATION CENTREalso growing sweet potatoes. 26 SPUDSMART.COM SUMMER 2020'