ŸŸ· ŸŸŸMark Shankle and Kambham Reddy, MSU research professor of plant and soil sciences, have a project to look at at the influence of Dual Magnum on root development. “They are using an advanced scanning technology winRHIZO image analysis system to look at architecture of roots,” Meyers says. “They should be wrapping up this study pretty soon.”

Ÿ· ŸŸŸŸRamone Arancibia is also looking at storage root initiation. “We’ve had a multi-state grant over several years to develop practices to improve storage root initiation,” Meyers says. “We know that high temperature reduces storage root initiation, and he’s evaluating the use of growth regulators to alleviate some of that stress and set more roots.

“He’s also looking at some sustainable production systems to determine the beneficial effect of winter cover crops and the feasibility of no-till production. He has two on-farm studies and one on the Pontotoc research station. He’s been working on this for several years and has found that winter cover crops improve soil characteristics and that sweet potato yields after cover crops were similar to conventional production.”

Ÿ· ŸŸŸŸJohn Ward, Mark Shankle, and Ramon Arancibia are working on development and testing of a sweet potato undercutter, for an alternative method of increasing sweet potato skin strength prior to harvest. The work is being done at the Pontotoc station and on-farm.

“Essentially, what they’ve found is that undercutting about six days before digging tends to increase skin toughness over mechanical de-vining in the Beauregard variety,” Meyers says. “In the future, bulk harvesting or modified harvesters could be an option. This research insures that growers have options in the tools they use for setting skin pre-harvest to maximize post-harvest performance.

ŸŸ· ŸŸŸNew post-harvest tools: Meyers is working with John Ward and John W. Lowe, agricultural and bioengineering research associate at MSU, to determine the effect of post-harvest conditions (curing method, relative humidity, temperature, air movement) on weight loss (transpiration) and quality of sweet potato storage roots over time.

“We have two platform scales our ag engineers have built with four load cells each. We can stack six 20-bushel bins on the scale to see how storage and curing conditions affect weight loss of sweet potatoes over time. Each unit has a datalogger to measure relative humidity and air temperature every hour, with a digital readout to easily view weight change.”

Ÿ· ŸŸŸŸResearch that is pending funding includes a block grant proposal for Meyers and Shankle to investigate pre-plant soil fumigants for sweet potato pest management. The objective is to compare K-Pam fumigation treatments with the next best options for disease, insect, and weed management systems. The proposal includes two years of research, with an on-farm component each year.

Ÿ· ŸŸŸThere is, Meyers says, a SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) proposal to develop a sweet potato-cattle production system for Mississippi. “It would determine the best means to incorporate sweet potatoes into cattle diets, including minimal processing efforts. We’ve submitted a pre-proposal, with full proposals invited in August, and recipients to be announced in November.” Research would be by Meyers, John Ward, Stephanie Ward, and Arancibia.

Ag news delivered daily to your inbox: Subscribe to Delta Farm Press Daily.

At the Pontotoc station, Meyers says, a foundation seed production program is maintained “to insure that there are virus-tested G0, certified true-to-type plant materials for growers in Mississippi, and to provide the state’s sweet potato industry with certified propagation material that is disease-free and true to type. Certified propagation material is produced every year, according to demand, and new varieties are incorporated into the program, also according to demand.”