Weevils damage large proportions of sweetpotato harvests in Sub-Saharan Africa and induce the accumulation of toxic compounds in the healthy-looking parts of damaged storage roots. Through biotechnology, we are working on two strategies that will eventually be combined into widely-cultivated sweetpotato varieties.
Through biotechnology, we have introduced new genes that produce anti-weevil proteins in the sweetpotato storage root. In parallel, we are testing a new strategy to weaken specific genes of the weevils to block their development. These two strategies will eventually be combined into widely-cultivated sweetpotato varieties in SSA.
With conventional breeding, thousands of genes are shuffled and recombined to obtain a desired trait. In comparison, modern biotechnology adds as little as one single gene to provide the desired trait to an existing well-performing variety. As a result, the level of genetic modification is only a tiny fraction of that produced through conventional breeding.