Biotech Updates

Sweet Potato Biotechnology in China

April 16, 2014

Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is an important food and industrial crop throughout the world. It is an alternative source of raw materials for biofuel production. China is the biggest sweet potato producer in the world. Thus, several researches were conducted to improved sweet potato through biotechnology.

China has been using an efficient system of embryogenic suspension cultures for sweet potato genotypes since the 1980s in which plant regeneration in different tissues via organogenesis or somatic embryogenesis have been successful. Somatic hybridization has also been utilized to overcome incompatibility between sweet potato and its relatives. The first interspecific somatic hybrid was produced between sweet potato and Ipomoea triloba by fusing petiole protoplasts of two species using the polyethylene glycol (PEG) method. It has generated useful interspecific somatic hybrids.

Cell induced mutation by gamma ray irradiation and in vitro selection have also been used to produce novel mutants. Agrobacterium-mediated transformation has been standardized for important cultivars, and has been used to produce transgenic plants resistant to diseases, stresses and herbicides. Molecular markers linked to a stem nematode resistance gene have been developed.

The paper summarizes China's advances in sweet potato biotechnology and suggests future directions for research in biotechnology of sweet potato.