SERA5: Sweet Potato Collaborators Conference

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Active

SERA5: Sweet Potato Collaborators Conference

Duration: 10/01/2020 to 09/30/2025

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Non-Technical Summary

Statement of Issues and Justification


This group has met annually since 1939 to exchange information about all aspects of sweetpotato production and post-harvest research and extension. The earlier meetings were primarily research-based, but in recent years, many extension specialists, graduate students, industry representatives and crop consultants have participated. The Collaborators Group annually coordinates regional trials (University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff; University of California; University of Florida; Louisiana State University; Mississippi State University; NC State University) of promising sweetpotato varieties being developed by participating geneticists, reviews the results of those regional trials, and agrees on germplasm lines to be entered and evaluated the following year. Sub-groups (ie weed science, plant pathology, entomology, food science, agricultural engineering, physiology, etc) within the Collaborators Group also conduct collaborative studies each year.  In more recent years, the Collaborators Group has implemented a graduate student presentation contest at their annual meeting to facilitate the professional development of graduate students.  The participants make a presentation on a sweetpotato research project that is usually associated with their degree (M.S.or PhD) program.  

Statement of Issues and Justification:

Sweetpotatoes are the major horticultural crop in several southern states and growers face the usual challenges of production (varieties, best management practices, crop protection, pest management, mechanization, and economics) and post-harvest (new products, marketing, value-added). No other forum exists, regionally, nationally, or internationally that focuses exclusively on sweetpotato research and extension activities. The expected benefits and impacts are continuing scientific synergy and rapid dissemination of information about emerging technologies. Stakeholders (customers) are the sweetpotato producers and shippers as well as the consumers that they serve.  The stakeholders recognize the importance of this collaboration and committee that has provided them research-based information in which their industry has been built, and they continually depend on.  In addition, development of students who are interested and who may work in the sweetpotato industry is also critical to the future of this industry.


  1. The Collaborators Group objective is the open sharing of research based information among a diverse community of sweetpotato scientists, extension specialists, and industry representatives addressing plant breeding, molecular biology, cultural practices, food science, pathology, entomology, physiology, and marketing. Annual publications include the results of the uniform regional germplasm trials and abstracts associated with presentations at the annual meeting.
  2. Extension program planning related to sweetpotato production
  3. Professional development of graduate students.

Procedures and Activities

The objective is met through the annual meeting of the Collaborators Group (usually in conjunction with the Southern Region ASHS and SAAS meetings); however, at regular intervals of every three to four years the Collaborators Group will hold their meeting concurrently with the U.S. Sweet Potato Council, a national sweet potato grower and processing association. The website ( is maintained by Dr. Lina Quesada at NC State University. Various sub-groups of the Collaborators have successfully united to seek funding for various aspects of the sweetpotato industry including support for germplasm collection trips and regional sweetpotato IPM activities.

The project saw significant grant activity within the group over the last five years. For example, multistate grants that include 1. the NIFA-ARS-APHIS National Clean Plant Network (NCPN-SP), a NIFA-SCRI planning grant CleanSEED: A Planning Project to Ensure the Sustainability of U.S. Sweetpotato Seed Programs $50,000, 2. USDA OREI grant for $1,958,939 entitled "A Multifaceted Approach to Weed Management in Organic Sweetpotato Production Systems in the Southeastern United States are currently underway. Also, NCPN-SP has provided over $2 million through cooperative agreements to six state centers of which four (AR, LA, MS, NC) include regular participants in the collaborators group.  These are not research grants, they fund the service of providing clean planting material to the industry.  In addition, various research publications, state extension publications, book chapter, etc have originated with the Collaborators group and involves many of the participants.  These efforts demonstrate a strong integration of research and extension activities among participants.

As stated above, the Collaborators Group is diverse and extends beyond the traditional research and extension faculty at land grant and non-land grant universities in states that produce sweetpotatoes. The private sector, international participants, graduate students, and other interested parties participate. Annual meetings usually range from 60 to 80 attendees and include states outside the southern region as well as several 1890 universities, and international participants such as from Canada, Israel, etc.

Expected Outcomes and Impacts

  • Developing multistate proposals that involve both extension and research activities and securing grants that will support U.S. sweetpotato growers.
  • Technology transfer from funded proposals will be through extension publications, presentations, refereed publications etc. Currently the Collaborators group is developing a new extension publication on sweetpotato production, handling, storage, etc. for stakeholders.
  • Annual meeting of extension and research faculty from land grant and non-land grant universities across the U.S. to share research results to be used in extension programs to educate sweetpotato growers.
  • Collaborate with growers and members of state sweetpotato grower associations (AL, CA, LA, MS, NC) and the U.S. Sweet Potato Council to insure research and extension activities are relevant, and to be advisory to these groups.
  • All proposals, where appropriate, that are submitted from SERA005 to funding agencies will have stakeholder involvement and surveys/questionnaires that will provide evaluation for feedback on how the projects are meeting their needs and expectations, and for guidance of future direction
  • The proceedings of the annual meeting will be published on the Sweetpotato Collaborators web site for use by sweetpotato faculty and industry including growers across the U.S.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan

Education plan consists of the annual meeting, and extension and outreach programs of the institutions participating in the committee


Offices consist of a chair (Ms. Michelle McHargue, Senior Research Scientist, Lamb Weston, WA), a past-chair (Dr. Lina Quesada, NC State University), a secretary-treasurer (currently Ms. Theresa Arnold, Louisiana State University) and a chair-elect (Dr. Katie Jennings, NC State University).  The Administrative advisors are Dr. David Monks (NC Agricultural Research Service, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, NC State University) and Dr. Steve Martin,   Mississippi State University Extension Service).

Literature Cited


Land Grant Participating States/Institutions


Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

Log Out ?

Are you sure you want to log out?

Press No if you want to continue work. Press Yes to logout current user.

Report a Bug
Report a Bug

Describe your bug clearly, including the steps you used to create it.