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Kazakhstan harvests sweet potato first time for South Korea

Sweet potato ©REUTERS Sweet potato ©REUTERS

Sweet potato was planted in three different regions of Kazakhstan this year in a pilot project for South Korea. All three fields have been harvested, Tengrinews reports citing Kazakh agriculturist Azamat Rakhimbekov.

Several hundred bushes of sweet potato were planted on small land plots in three areas of Kazakhstan in May: near Shymkent in Kazakhstan's south, near Karaganda in Kazakhstan's center and in Stepnogorsk in Kazakhstan's further north. The sprouts were provided by the foreign participants of the joint project.

The attempt to cultivate sweet potato in Kazakhstan is a Kazakh-Korean joint project. One of the leaders of the project Darkhan Balpanov explained that agro scientists from South Korea turned to their Kazakhstani colleagues because South Korea is lacking land to grow its sweet potatoes. South Korea has a population of 50.2 million people and a tiny territory of 100,210 km2, that puts it into the 109th place in the world by area. Kazakhstan has a population of 17 million people and world's 9th largest territory of 2,724,900 km2.

This year's low air temperatures in Kazakhstan had a negative influence of the yield of all types of crops, nevertheless the sweet potato harvest was good enough to prove that the foreign root crop can grow in Kazakhstan's harsh climate.

Sweet potato is a tropical root crop that is traditionally grown in Peru, Colombia, New Zealand, Japan and Korea. The leading exporters are China, India and Indonesia.

Although all three fields have produces some results, there has been a clearly visible dependence of the sweet potato's growth dynamics and the climate of the regions where it was planted, Darkhan Balpanov said. The harvesting first began in southern Kazakhstan, whereas ripening of the root crop in the colder areas took longer.

In the central and northern Kazakhstan fields the yield made 20 tons per hectare, whereas in southern Kazakhstan it was more than double the amount - 40-50 tons per hectare. The harvest from the central and northern field made 100kg and the harvest from the southern field amounted to 200kg.

Kazakh scientists now have tubers that they can use to cultivate seedlings. They have already notified their South Korean colleagues about the preliminary results of the experiment.

According to Azamat Rakhimbekov, Kazakhstan needs to create conditions for storage of sweet potato before thinking about setting put commercial production.

Besides, commercial cultivation of the root crops requires special equipment, but South Korea is expected to help with that part.

Kazakhstan grows a lot of regular potatoes, but sweet potatoes have never been widespread in the area and are not commonly consumed by Kazakhstanis. So everything that the Kazakh-Korean joint project produces in Kazakhstan is destined for the South Korean market.

Sweet potato is valued throughout the world because the root crop is rich in vitamins and proteins. Besides, it makes an excellent fodder. "The tubers can be used for production of spirits as they contain a large quantity of sugar. However, it is a dietary product, in contrast to the regular potato. Instant noodles and chips are made thereof in Korea and they are not as unhealthy as those made from potatos," the head of the project Darkhan Balpanov said in September.

Reporting by Dmitriy Khegai, writing by Assel Satubaldina, editing by Tatyana Kuzmina


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