Why spell it ‘sweetpotato’?

By Joel Eneristo Joven

For so long, people have been used to the term ‘sweet potato’ to refer to one of the world’s most important and popular food crops. So, the suggestion of writing it as ‘sweetpotato’ may create quite a stir as what PCAARRD has experienced recently.

Promoting its uniqueness is why PCAARRD supports and promotes such a change in spelling – the very reason why the initiative was proposed and adopted in 1989.

On its website, the North Carolina Sweetpotato Commission shared that it endorsed and adopted the single-word spelling of sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas) to differentiate it from the equally unique and distinctive potato (Solanum tubersosum) or the yam (Dioscorea sp.). The initiative was subsequently adopted by the US National Sweetpotato Collaborators in 1989.

This was reaffirmed by the Centro Internationale de la Papa or International Potato Center (CIP) based in Peru. According to CIP, “Using the single-word term helps differentiate the sweetpotato from the white or Irish potato, which is a tuber, not a root…Differentiation also matters when it comes to separating sweetpotato from yams, another vegetable with which it is commonly confused (with).” Potatoes and yams are both tubers while sweetpotato is a root.

With the differentiation, it also rectifies the confusion and mistreatment of sweetpotato being classified as a type of potato (Irish potato, red potato, white potato, baking potato etc.) and thus, should be propagated, grown, harvested, cured, graded, marketed, consumed and promoted as a unique commodity.

Like DOST-PCAARRD, the one-word spelling is also supported by other academic and research institutions and groups working on sweetpotato R&D such as the International Society for Horticultural Science, the Philippine Root Crops Research and Training Center (PhilRootcrops) at the Visayas State University (VSU), Northern Philippines Root Crops Research and Training Center (NPRCRTC) at Benguet State University (BSU), and others.

So while the use of the two-word spelling may still be prevalent when someone googles the word, spelling it as sweetpotato would help highlight the uniqueness and importance of the once known as a poor man’s crop. (DOST-PCAARRD S&T Media Services)