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Sweetpotato Pests and Diseases

Many sweetpotato plants in Sub-Saharan Africa are infested with plant diseases. Fungal and bacterial diseases usually have special resting stages in which the disease organism can survive long periods of time, often in dead leaves, and may be blown in the wind onto young, previously unaffected crops. These resting stages can germinate and penetrate into the new host plant.


 Increased sweetpotato production in sub-Saharan Africa is hampered by high incidence of virus diseases.  Sweet potato virus disease (SPVD), caused by synergistic interaction between Sweet potato feathery mottle virus (SPFMV) and Sweet potato chlorotic stunt virus (SPCSV), can cause up to 98% yield losses.  The crop is vegetatively propagated, and so viruses accumulate with each generation, and are difficult to control. Virus disease are usually transmitted through other organisms (vectors), such as whitefly, leafhopper or aphid.


In addition, sweetpotato weevil is a major source of economic loss in developing countries. Although the crop can be produced under difficult growing conditions with minimum inputs, weevils continue to plague production. Other sweetpotato pests include nematodes.


In order to manage pests and diseases, it is important to know where they come from, how they spread, when they typically arrive and how to recognize and manage them. A lot of work has been done to address the issues of pest and disease management through breeding, production and management practices. Typically, researchers, agronomists and farmers combine a variety of different pest management practices and experiment with these practices to find out which one best suits their unique circumstances.