Sweet Potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are a healthy superfood that has minimal environmental impact and can be purchased fairly locally in most parts of the United States.
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Sweet potatoes are believed to have many medicinal benefits that include anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and anticancer properties.

Sweet potato wastewater may help weight loss and can be used to cleanse and tone skin.

They are a great source of fiber and short-chain fatty acids that promote healthy gut and reduce the risk of colon cancer
Sweet potatoes are rich with antioxidants with anti aging properties that prevent oxidative damage to our cells.
Sweet potatoes reduce inflammation which improves brain health and slows mental decline.
They are rich in beta-carotene that converts to vitamin A and helps improve vision as well as other health benefits
Historically, sweet potatoes are believed to have originated in Central and South America. Radiocarbon data shows that they somehow made their way to Polynesia in A.D. 1000.

Today, Sweet potatoes are grown all over the world and are considered a staple crop for addressing food security and food equity in many developing countries.

The Shandong Province of China’s northern coast produces more than 17million metric tons of sweet potato that accounts for about 12 percent of global production.

Sweet potatoes are most commonly grown in warm climates like California and the southeastern states.

North Carolina is the top producer responsible for about 60% of all sweet potatoes in the country. Production has grown in popularity to about 5.2million cwt from 1990-2007.

Louisiana follows as second highest producer at 2.8million cwt where sweet potatoes are harvested year round

California is the third highest producer at 2.5 million cwt

Mississippi is number four at 1.6million cwt followed by Texas at .4million cwt

Sweet potato are now being experimentally grown in parts of Oregon and other regions

Economic Impact

Sweet potato production has become an economically profitable crop creating income, jobs and food security for many communities worldwide..

As the health benefits become more publicized and popular in diet trends, domestic consumption has grown significantly at a 42% increase from 2000-2016 from 1.3billion pounds to 3.1billion pounds reaching a record 31.54 million cwt in 2016 with an estimated value of US$705.7 million (AGMRC, USDA 2017) am . Americans have increased the consumption from 4 pounds per person to 7.5 pounds per person over the same period. The U.S.exported about 11% of total supply at about 409million pounds in 2015-2016 and has expanded to markets in Canada and the United Kingdom.

In North Carolina, sweet potato has a huge economic impact responsible for an estimated US$87 billion to the state’s economy and supported over 5000 jobs in 2016. (NCSU.EDU)

In Louisiana, sweet potato is the single most important vegetable crop in terms of planted acreage and economic value.

Analysis has shown sweet potato crops are profitable with labor as 68% of total cost of production. Yield made the biggest impact on profitability. The average sweet potato yield in 2016 was about 20,300 or 300bushels per acre which was up from 275 bushels per acre in 2015.

Plant disease and pest infection transmitted through the use of contaminated planting materials pose the most significant threat to sweet potato crop yield. Virus free sweet potato seed and best practices have proven to make conspicuous improvements in yields according to studies in Shendong, China.

Environmental Impact

Sweet potato has proven to be a highly productive crop that can be grown in low-quality soil with minimal fertilizer and irrigation making it a less destructive alternative.

When best practices of regenerative agriculture are used to grow sweet potatoes, it can be done with minimal point source pollution and air pollution. The ability to grow close to the consumer also minimizes transportation needs and limits contributions to factors that cause climate change.

The need for irrigation is minimal and can be done with a drip system and regenerative agriculture methods to reduce the drain on local water supply.

Sweet potato roots can remove toxic ammonia and nitrates to improve water quality and make it more habitable for fish and marine wildlife.

Sweet potato has few natural predators making pesticide use rare. The vines grow rapidly and shade out weeds reducing the use of herbicides and need for weeding.
The hardiness of sweet potato crops to grow in most soil regardless of soil quality makes it unnecessary to clear forest in order to plant. Small scale sweet potato production can be done in urban farms and gardens.

Social Impact

As a highly nutritious, long season crop, sweet potato offers an inexpensive option for developing countries in warm climates to combat malnutrition. Sweet potato can be grown on a large scale as a cash crop or on a small scale for subsistence farming.

Although sweet potato offers opportunities for local communities to take control of their own food security, it is not native to most countries or part of many cultural food traditions. Sweet potato is growing in popularity and being promoted worldwide.


AGRIS Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN
(Clark and Moyer, 1988)