The phenotypic diversity of sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) landraces was assessed using morphological traits, verifying how this diversity is distributed among the households and settlements of the Vale do Ribeira, Brazil. A total of 74 accessions, involving 53 landraces, collected from 30 households distributed among 18 settlements that practice traditional agriculture in the municipalities of Iguape, Ilha Comprida, and Cananeia, as well as four commercial varieties acquired in markets of Iguape and Piracicaba, were evaluated under an ex situ experimental condition in Piracicaba, SP, Brazil. Nine phenological and floral descriptors, nine morphological vegetative aerial descriptors and five storage root traits were recorded. The 14 aerial vegetative and root descriptors were evaluated as binary data, totaling 74 attributes. Cluster analyses were made using the Jaccard similarity index and the UPGMA (unweighted pair group method with arithmetic mean) agglomerative method. Binary data was also submitted to a variance analysis (AMOVA). No defined groups were observed, indicating that the diversity of the landraces is not structured in space, but considerable morphological variation was found in this area (Jaccard similarity index varying from 0.12 to 1.0). Most of the variability occurred within households (64.4%), followed by the distribution among households within settlements (27.1%) and among settlements (8.4%). Thus, the traditional agriculturists of Vale do Ribeira maintain a high morphological diversity for sweet potato within their households, which can be assumed to be produced by the outcrossing mating system of this species and somatic mutation events, as well as the exchange system at local and regional levels.
local varieties; morphology; phenotypic diversity; traditional agriculture; variability