Insect resistance in traditional and heirloom sweetpotato varieties.
Fifty-nine sweetpotato cultivars, including 16 heirlooms, 11 near-heirlooms (developed in the 1960s and 1970s), 19 cultivars from the 1980s, and 13 modern varieties (since 1990), were evaluated for resistance to soil insects in field experiments during 2010-2011 at the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agriculture Research Service, U.S. Vegetable Laboratory (USDA-ARS, USVL), Charleston, SC. These experiments included two insect-susceptible control cultivars (Beauregard and SC1149-19) and four insect-resistant control cultivars (Charleston Scarlet,Regal, Ruddy, and Sumor) that were developed by the USDA-ARS, USVL sweetpotato breeding program. Sweetpotato genotypes differed significantly in resistance measured by the overall percentage of injured roots, WDS (Wireworm, Diabrotica, and Systena) index, the percentage of roots damaged by the sweetpotato weevil (Cylas formicarius F.), the percentage of roots damaged by the sweetpotato flea beetle (Chaetonema confinis Crotch), and the percentage of roots damaged by white grub larvae (including Plectris aliena Chapin and Phyllophaga spp.). Twenty-three sweetpotato cultivars had a lower percentage of injured roots than the susceptible control genotype, SC1149-19, while 14 varieties had a lower percentage of injured roots than Beauregard, one of the leading commercial orange-fleshed cultivars in the United States. Over the 2-yr period, Ruddy (7.6%) had the lowest percentage of injured roots and Carolina Ruby (84.6%) the highest percentage of injured roots. Carolina Ruby (1.07) also had the highest WDS index, but 15 genotypes had a significantly lower WDS index than either susceptible control, SC1149-19 (1.03) or Beauregard (0.82). Ruddy (0.07) and Murasaki-29 (0.09) had the lowest WDS indices. Forty-five genotypes had a significantly lower percentage infestation by flea beetles than SC1149-19 (12.3%), and the highest level of flea beetle infestation was for Bonita (18.9%). The highest percent white grub infestation was for Caromex (19.6%), however none of the genotypes had significantly less white grubs than the susceptible controls. The highest infestation of sweetpotato weevils was observed for SC1149-19 (17.9%), while 29 genotypes had significantly lower percentage of sweetpotato weevil infestation than SC1149-19. The moderate to high levels of resistance to soil insect pests exhibited by many of these traditional and heirloom cultivars may provide useful sources of germplasm for sweetpotato breeding programs.