Sweet potatoes: the food of the future


by Dustin Teays, Staff Writer

Simpson students filed into Lekberg Hall on Wednesday in the Amy Robertson Music Center to hear Maria Andrade deliver the annual World Food Prize Lecture.

Andrade is a senior sweet potato breeder from the International Potato Center. In 2016, she was recognized as the World Food Prize laureate for the research she conducted in creating a more drought-tolerant and disease-resistant sweet potato. This potato is packed with more nutrients that malnourished children and pregnant women need in Africa and parts of Asia. In 2019, she will receive the Woman of the Year Award in the Cape Verde Islands.

The World Food Prize was created by Iowan Norman E. Borlaug in 1986. Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his dedication to feeding the hungry. The World Food Prize is built from the idea of people who made strides to increase the quality, quantity and availability of food to those in need all around the world.

The lecture focused on the work Andrade did in creating a higher-yield sweet potato through breeding different strains of sweet potatoes to increase positive traits and nutrients. Aside from being resistant to drought and disease, this potato also contains higher concentrations of vitamin A to combat the health risks from malnourishment.

“There is no need for so many children to die because of being malnourished,” Andrade said.

Andrade spoke to the versatility of sweet potatoes as one of the reasons it was selected, since there are multiple part of the crop that can be eaten. She also mentioned that leftover parts from the sweet potato harvests can be used to create food for the cows and pigs to eat.

Since Africa is severely prone to drought, Andrade’s main goal is to make sweet potatoes easier for the farmers to grow by using breeding to cross different kinds of sweet potatoes that not only are more drought resistant but also have higher concentrations of Vitamin A to combat malnourishment.

Andrade will continue to make sure food goes farther than what it is currently capable of doing throughout the world.