A researcher at Massey University will travel to the United States to discover more about the history of taewa and kumara.
Nick Roskruge has been awarded a scholarship that will see him based at Cornell University in New York for two months, beginning in April.
Research has shown that the kumara (sweet potato) comes from the northern tropical parts of South America and the taewa (Maori potato) originates further south in the Andean mountains and Chile.
Dr Roskruge said he will talk to indigenous people, and look at the genetics of the crops to work out how they moved out from these origins.
He said he will also travel to Washington State to meet with the Makah Native Americans, who know a lot about the early sea voyages around the Pacific.