Malaysia’s sweet potato expert gives her take

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Dr Tan Swee Lian holding VitAto, one of the sweetpotato varieties she developed while working in MARDI.

The Petri Dish (PD) recently interviewed Dr Tan Swee Lian, a former plant breeder with the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) for 37 years. During this time, she worked mainly on cassava and the sweet potato crops. Through her research initiative MARDI came up with some fascinating cassava and sweet potato varieties.

PD: Why is sweet potato an important crop in the country?

It is a short-term crop requiring only 3½ to 4 months to mature from planting to harvest. This means it can fit well into an annual cropping system, as a rotational crop (good as a cultural means of managing pests and diseases), or as an intercrop (grown in between annual crops with a longer cropping cycle, or between perennial crops during their juvenile non-yielding stage).