In casseroles and pies, sweet potatoes will share space with the turkey on Thanksgiving. Louisiana farmers harvested a good crop of this Thanksgiving mainstay.

LSU AgCenter sweet potato specialist Tara Smith said despite some concerns late in the growing season, farmers brought in a good crop.

“We did receive some rain in conjunction with Hurricane Isaac and some late-season rain in September, but overall we’re harvesting an average, good-quality crop.”

Sweet potato acreage is down in the state for the second year in a row, but Smith doesn’t think the decline in acreage is permanent.“There are a lot of good things still promising and on the horizon, and we are optimistic that we will see a rebound in acreage in subsequent years.”

Farmers are excited about two new varieties. One is Orleans and the other is La 07146. A small number of acres were planted in these varieties. Beauregard has been the leading variety in Louisiana for decades. Smith said Orleans is the first variety that may challenge Beauregard’s top spot.

“It’s a great-tasting potato. It looks great. It yields on average with Beauregard if not a little higher. The quality and the pack out seem to be improved compared with the Beauregard variety.”

Growers have had problems with the sugarcane beetle the past few years, but Smith said LSU AgCenter researchers were able to develop a management strategy that kept damage on the potatoes from the pest to a minimum this year.

Researchers also are looking at flooding tolerance in sweet potatoes and harvesting methods of a flooded crop. The Louisiana sweet potato industry suffered significant losses in 2008 and 2009 from heavy rains and flooding.

“We looked at the quality of the potatoes that were coming into storage, and you definitely have to handle the roots differently if they were subjected to water stress,” Smith said.