Jeff Masters Weather Blog

Are sweet potatoes a climate-resilient crop of the future? » Yale Climate Connections

As the climate warms, hotter temperatures will make it harder to grow certain crops. But this Thanksgiving, you can give thanks for one holiday tradition that’s evolved to withstand the heat.

Harvey: “Sweet potatoes are a tropical crop, so they’re well acclimated to that heat. They prefer heat.”

Lorin Harvey is a sweet potato specialist at Mississippi State University Extension. His state grows almost 500 million pounds of sweet potatoes a year, topped only by North Carolina and California.

He says because of their heat tolerance, sweet potatoes hold promise as a climate-resilient crop. So he and other researchers are trying to breed new high-yielding varieties that can tolerate even more heat and less water.

Harvey says he’s confident sweet potatoes will thrive in a warming world and could provide calorie-dense food in regions where some crops are getting harder to grow.

Harvey: “Given the fact that it is a tropical crop … and it needs less water than some other crops, I think it’s going to be widely grown across the country, widely grown across the world, even more so as we encounter these climate change related difficulties.”

So whether you like them baked in a casserole or fried in wedges, you can give thanks for the sweet potato — now and in a warmer world.

Reporting Credit: Sarah Kennedy / ChavoBart Digital Media

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