Growing Futures

New cultivars of an iconic New Zealand crop

New cultivars of an iconic New Zealand crop

New kumara cultivars with enhanced performance that offer additional characteristics for consumers

Kumara, or sweet potato, is a fundamental part of the New Zealand diet, dating back to early Māori settlers. Beyond its traditional use as a whole food, kumara is now used as an ingredient in a variety of processed foods, including baby foods, soups and snack foods.

Three varieties of kumara are commonly grown commercially – orange ‘Beauregard’, ‘Toka Toka Gold’ and ‘Owairaka Red’. Around 17,500 tonnes of kumara are produced each year, generating more than $30 million of sales. The crop is mostly sold on the domestic market, due to issues with storage life that impact on its use as an export crop.

The kumara breeding programme is focused on delivering new cultivars with enhanced agronomic performance, including resistance to fungal diseases that affect storage potential, and extending products available to the consumer, with novel skin and flesh colours as well as characteristics known to be good for health and wellness.

Since 1998, five cultivars have been released from the kumara breeding programme. The most recent releases include ‘SPFR1’, marketed as Purple Dawn, with purple skin and purple flesh, and ‘SPFR2’, marketed as Orange Sunset, with red skin and flesh marbled with orange and purple, improved resistance to fungal rots and with increased tolerance to drought conditions.

The kumara breeding programme was funded by Plant & Food Research.

Created: September 2015

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