M.J. Tucker and M.T. Dahniya
Scarcity of improved sweetpotato vine cuttings at the beginning of the rains is a major constraint to increased production of the early crop in Sierra Leone. With the limited vines available, farmers resort to planting small plots or using short cuttings with few nodes to plant larger areas. The response of two widely grown sweetpotato cultivars, Njala White and 82/123R, to varying numbers of nodes per planted cutting ranging from 4-18 cm with 1-5 nodes compared with the normal vine length (NVL) of 25-30 cm with 8 or more nodes (control) was evaluated in two growing seasons at the Institute of Agricultural Research research farm at Njala from June to October. Except for mean marketable root weight, cuttings of both cultivars with 1 and 2 nodes were consistently inferior in terms of stand establishment, storage root numbers and yields compared with cuttings with 3 or more nodes. By final harvesting at 18 weeks after planting, marketable root numbers and yields of 3, 4 and 5-node cuttings were not significantly different from the control. Mean fresh marketable root yield averaged over both years for 1-node cuttings and the control ranged from 4.55 – 16.66 t ha-1 and from 6.33- 16.87 t ha-1 for Njala White and 82/123R, respectively. Significant increases in root yield resulted with increase in nodal units per cutting from 2 to 3 nodes. Investment in vine cuttings was highest for the control. Highest net benefits were derived from 4 and 5-node cuttings for both cultivars indicating the potential of increasing total production and returns by using 4 and 5-node cuttings of swetpotato to plant larger areas with the early crop which usually yields higher and commands a higher price.