Introduction to
Virus-free Sweetpotato Production

Begin with this introduction page

Indiana Biolab was the first Commerical Laboratory to offer virus-free sweetpotato plants to farmers. These plants were used in extensive multi-year testing by North Carolina State University.

We are just beginning a website on Sweetpotato production via Virus-free plants. This page a summary which will be expanded.

This temporary page will give you some information on using virus-free sweet potato for Patio, Garden, or Commercial production. Production of these foundation plants requires nearly constant year round effort at Indiana Biolab. Therefore they are expensive. However, in cooperation with North Carolina pathologists, Extension workers, and farmers, we have development methods whereby the farm family can produce seed roots superior to Certified Plants at affordable costs.

Commercial growers already understand much of the info on this page, but this page begins with the basic facts for the benefit of beginners.

The Sweetpotato Life Cycle

In its native tropic home, sweetpotato is a perennial. Natives grow sweetpotato by cutting vines and planting them. When they want roots to eat they carefully dig into the hill and remove only the roots which are edible size. They carefully avoid disturbing the smaller roots as they will quickly grow to edible size. The surplus crop is left in the ground attached to te vine where it continues to grow and serves as a reserve food supply for famine years.

In temperate zones, growth quits in cool fall weather and the foliage is blackened by the first frosts. We dig the roots and store them in warm temperature. In the spring we plant the roots side by side and and via somatic embryogenieses, somatic cells turn into embryos (eyes) and give rise to new vines which are not always identical to the original plant. Commercial growers call this variation from the original plant mutation. In the old days farmers pulled these plants from the original root and planted them in ridges in the production fields.

No Dirt; No Roots on the Best Plants.

Soil pox and some other diseases of sweetpotato are found in soil and carried on the infected roots produced in infected soils. Clean fields become infected by plants grown from infected sweetpotato plants.

University work has demonstrated that vines grown from infected roots are fairly free of soil-borne diseases. However, the section of vine below the ground is infected by organisms from the original seed root. Therefore, most farmers now plant vine cuttings. They are cut a few inches above the soil and great care is taken to avoid getting any of the soil on the cuttings.

Such cuttings are relatively free of soil borne diseases but are about 100% infected with virus diseases. It is not possible to cure plants of the virus infection.

Virus-free Sweetpotato Plants

Decades ago, plant virologists learned several methods for obtaining clones free from viruses. tip cuttings.

Low cost production of Seed Roots from Indiana Biolab Vine Cuttings

200 - Sweetpotato Production in Garden and Patio

300 - Commerical Sweetpotato Production

IPM: Management of Scruf, Sorage Rots, Soil Pox- North Carolina

400 - Sweetpotato Diseases and IPM

500 - Virus Diseases of Sweetpotato & Indiana Biolab

General Production Information

How to Spell Sweetpotato
North Carolina Sweetpotato production guides
Viruses and Sweetpotato
History of Sweetpotato
Nutritive Value of Sweetpotato
Ways to use Sweetpotato for Food
The Future of Sweetpotato
Sweetpotato Diseases
Sweetpotato Species
Sweetpotato Breeding
Sweetpotato Production in the Home Garden
Commercial Sweetpotato Production
We invite Growers and Scientists to contribute Information

Growing Sweetpotato in Pacific Northwest
Visual Guide to Growing Sweetpotato
Sweetpotato: a treasure for the poor
Commercial Sweetpotato Production in Mississippi
IPM Insect Control in Southern Vegetable Crops

1990 Summary of Commercial Sweetpotato Production in North Carolina

Indiana Biolab Farm

Indiana Biolab Virus-free Sweetpotato Out-yielded others 300% in university tests. Visit our new sweetpotato website.

Our virus-free Beauregard sweetpotato outyielded the best North Carolina Certified plants 3-fold in field tests by North Carolina University spanning several years. We supply virus-free micropropagated strawberry and caneberry plants to America's leading nurseries. In a peak year, 10% of the strawberries planted in the USA came from Indiana Biolab foundation stock. The plantlets are grown in sterile agar medium in baby food jars under fluorescent lamps and then rooted in greenhouses under mist or fog. Farmers and nurseries then set our plants in their fields and sell the daughters or granddaughters to commercial growers and home gardeners. We offer the plants at 45 cents each in lots of 100 with discounts for commerical quantities. Samples of 10 plants cost $5 postpaid. You may order by E-mail. These pages will explain how we do this work and show our laboratory facilities.

Indiana Biolab is the remainder of a 160 acre general grain and livestock farm. We use the ground intensively and work year-round. Our facility consists of a residence, 34 by 36 foot laboratory building, four greenhouses, nursery and garden areas used for testing small fruit and breeding new cultivars. All this is located on scarcely more than an acre. When Indiana Biolab moved into this facility in 1965, two people lived in this area. Palmyra has grown around Indiana Biolab and that area contains 45 people.

Much of the testing of new varieties is done in cooperation with gardeners and small fruit growers and we always welcome new cooperators. These pages will tell you about the work done at Indiana Biolab and farming around Palmyra. Students can get lots of ideas for science projects from these pages.The brief notes below will eventually be linked to full pages giving complete information. As soon as those pages are written links from this page will take you to them.

This section will also describe the geology and agriculture of our county. We live in a karst geological region having underground drainage by caves; no surface streams. The former general farming is changing to grassland cattle, urbanization, and entertainment farming.

Indiana Biolab also does much work in microbiology. Since 1960 we have offered cultures of bacteria, fungi, insects and supplies to students, schools, colleges, and industry for education, reference, and research. We printed catalogs at irregular intervals. Now all that and much more is available on our web pages. We especially want to help teachers and students develop outstanding science projects. Home and commercial gardeners will find useful information and supplies from Indiana Biolab on these pages.

Indiana Biolab Research and Production

Indiana Biolab is located in the southwest corner of Palmyra. The old rambling farmhouse was the headquarters of the large Weber Farm. The laboratory has been expanded from the "powerhouse" that served the farm. The original building, still in use, is constructed with square-cut nails which were last made in late 1800s.

The micropropagation lab is where we grow virus-free, insect-free, disease-free sweetpotato and small fruit plants in baby food jars containing sterile nutrient agar media.

In cooperative field tests with North Carolina State University, sweetpotato plants micropropagated by Indiana Biolab outproduced the best North Carolina Certified Beauregard plants 3-fold. The yield increase was probably due to the absence of disease in Indiana Biolab micropropagated plants and the use of a superior clone. The North Carolina extension reports will be republished here soon.

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Written by Harold Eddleman, Ph. D., President, Indiana Biolab, 14045 Huff St., Palmyra IN 47164
Suggestions, corrections, and comments are appreciated: Contact Harold Eddleman