Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is one of the largest food crops in the world. Due to its abundance of starch, sweet potato is a valuable ingredient in food derivatives, dietary supplements, and industrial raw materials. In addition, due to its ability to adapt to a wide range of harsh climate and soil conditions, sweet potato is a crop that copes well with the environmental stresses caused by climate change. However, due to the complexity of the sweet potato genome and the long breeding cycle, our ability to modify sweet potato starch is limited. In this review, we cover the recent development in sweet potato breeding, understanding of starch properties, and the progress in sweet potato genomics. We describe the applicational values of sweet potato starch in food, industrial products, and biofuel, in addition to the effects of starch properties in different industrial applications. We also explore the possibility of manipulating starch properties through biotechnological means, such as the CRISPR/Cas-based genome editing. The ability to target the genome with precision provides new opportunities for reducing breeding time, increasing yield, and optimizing the starch properties of sweet potatoes.

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Published in International Journal of Molecular Sciences, v. 22, issue 17, 9533.

© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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This work was supported by grants from the National Key R&D Program of China (2018YFD1000705, 2019YFD1000703, 2019YFD1000701–2, 2019YFD1000704–2), Youth Innovation Promotion Association CAS (Y819V11111), and the Chenshan Special Fund for Shanghai Landscaping Administration Bureau Program (G182402), Special funding from China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2019TQ0335) to S.A., a postdoctoral fellowship from the University of Kentucky to R.L., and the Harold R. Burton Endowed Professorship to L.Y.