What’s in a Variety

Every Barbadian has a preferred variety of something weather it is for Julie vs Imperial mangoes, a breadfruit from the right tree or the right kind of sweet potatoes.

What many people may not realise the the number of varieties that exist in all crops and the significance of differences between those varieties. In well established crops, specific varieties often have specific uses. For example,  potatoes come in three standard variety, Starchy – best for baking and frying, Waxy – best for casseroles and potato salads and All Purpose – your jack of all trades, master of none.

Each of those broad categories is then broken up into individual varieties.  Each of these specific varieties has individual characteristics which add value.  For the farmer it might be disease resistance and yield potential, for the supermarket – shelf life and for the consumer – flavour and appearance.  These characteristics, this distinctness, allows for some varieties to be valued much higher than others. In fact, there is a potato variety grown in France, call La Bonnette, which can be sold for up to $300 USD/lb.

In Barbados we have numerous varieties of sweet potato grown, these include Caroline Lea, Red Man and CBS49, the latter a truly local variety bred and developed in Barbados. While research has been done on their cooking and processing properties it is a drop in the bucket compared to the work that has been done on more well established crops.

A first step in establishing value for these varieties  would be to enable the consumers to easily identify their prefered varieties.  This would allow consumers to learn which varieties are best for the their purposes.

I believe, that if developed and marketed properly its possible that we could one day see a sweet potato variety that is also sold for $300 USD a pound.

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About Andrew Stoute

Dr. Stoute obtained his PhD in Plant Biology from the University of Reading in 2009 working on photoperiodic control of flowering. He then took Post-Doctoral Researcher position at Rothamsted Research working on the developmental factors around parental regulation of seed size in oilseed rape (canola). He joined the staff of the West Indies Central Sugar Cane Breeding Station in 2011 as the Plant Geneticist, responsible for performing crosses from extensive germplasm collection to provide clients with improved sugarcane varieties. He also develops systems and programs to aid in the selection of the best parental material for those crosses.

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