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Agronomy (Switzerland)

Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) growth faces two critical problems: variability in storage root (SR) number and size among individual plants, and skinning injuries that render the SR susceptible to pathogen infections during storage. We hypothesized that application of potassium (K) fertilizer, an essential mineral for sweet potato, would contribute to increased yield, uniformity, and skin quality of SRs. Sweet potatoes were grown in sandy soil, which is poor in K, and in loess soil. The fertilizers potassium chloride (KCl) and polyhalite were applied before planting. Polyhalite is a hydrated sulfate of K, calcium, and magnesium that has been shown to improve potato skin appearance. Soil type was the major factor affecting SR yield—higher in sandy vs. loess soil. The K fertilizers did not affect yield in either soil type, or improve SR uniformity. However, the skin of the SRs from loess soil had more phellem layers and larger phellem cells following fertilization, mainly with KCl. Accordingly, the expression of suberin marker genes was significantly higher in mature vs. immature skin of SRs fertilized with KCl. Overall, soil type was the major factor affecting sweet potato yield, and addition of K positively affected skin morphology and related gene expression.

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Potassium Positively Affects Skin Characteristics of Sweet Potato Storage Roots
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Potassium Positively Affects Skin Characteristics of Sweet Potato Storage Roots

Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) growth faces two critical problems: variability in storage root (SR) number and size among individual plants, and skinning injuries that render the SR susceptible to pathogen infections during storage. We hypothesized that application of potassium (K) fertilizer, an essential mineral for sweet potato, would contribute to increased yield, uniformity, and skin quality of SRs. Sweet potatoes were grown in sandy soil, which is poor in K, and in loess soil. The fertilizers potassium chloride (KCl) and polyhalite were applied before planting. Polyhalite is a hydrated sulfate of K, calcium, and magnesium that has been shown to improve potato skin appearance. Soil type was the major factor affecting SR yield—higher in sandy vs. loess soil. The K fertilizers did not affect yield in either soil type, or improve SR uniformity. However, the skin of the SRs from loess soil had more phellem layers and larger phellem cells following fertilization, mainly with KCl. Accordingly, the expression of suberin marker genes was significantly higher in mature vs. immature skin of SRs fertilized with KCl. Overall, soil type was the major factor affecting sweet potato yield, and addition of K positively affected skin morphology and related gene expression.

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