What is in this article?:
- Weather-shortened crop foretells stronger prices for sweet potatoes
- Reduce nematodes with rotation
Heavy rains that are expected to reduced sweet potato production in the Southeast may mean stronger prices for Mississippi and Louisiana growers, Benny Graves, executive director of the Mississippi Sweet Potato Council, said at the state's sweet potato field day.
BENNY GRAVES, from left, executive director, Mississippi Sweet Potato Council; Reuben Moore, associate director, Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station; Mike Phillips, department head, and Raja Reddy, professor of plant physiology, both in the Mississippi State University Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, were among those attending the Mississippi sweet potato field day.
Reduce nematodes with rotation
"We’re encouraging growers, where they can, to rotate to a non-reniform host crop like corn or sorghum. Peanuts can also be a suitable rotation crop for those who can grow them.
“Insect pressures have been low, for the most part. Cucumber beetles are the predominant insect we’re seeing right now, with some armyworms beginning to come in. We’re also keeping an eye out for the sugarcane beetle.
“With the crop maturing, four-legged pests are also a problem for some growers. Deer have figured out that there are sweet potatoes under the soil, and they’re starting to dig around in fields. Wild hogs have been troublesome for some of our growers.”
Although he said he’d had reports of some harvesting in late August, “I expect things to be in full swing after the Labor Day Holiday.”
Meyers, who filled the Extension sweet potato specialist position in January, notes that there now is a sweet potato page on the Mississippi State University MSU Cares website.
“It contains a lot of the presentations we give throughout the year, links to pest management recommendations , and links to other sites of interest.
“Sweet potatoes are also on the Mississippi Crops Situation blog, where a lot of the Extension agronomic and research specialists post updates about what they’re seeing in the field and questions growers are posing.”
The U.S. Sweet Potato Council will meet in New Orleans this year, Meyers says. Information about the meeting and registration/reservations details can be found here.
Mavis Finger, Louisiana State University AgCenter sweet potato specialist at Winnsboro, La., said growers in her state also were delayed in planting due to cooler than normal springtime temperatures and consistent rains from late May to June, which brought an increase in disease and breakdown of seed roots.
“We had 7,500 acres planted this year, a 25 percent reduction from 2012,” she says. “We had adequate rainfall during planting and the early growing season, but additional moisture is needed to finish sizing.
“Growers with irrigation have been using that to keep the crop on schedule. As of Aug. 15, some of our producers in the southern part of the Louisiana were beginning harvest, but statewide harvest is expected to begin about Sept. 10.”
LSU AgCenter is focusing on increasing production efficiency of sweet potatoes, Finger says, to optimize production practices for both the fresh market and processing sectors.
“Tara Smith, who previously held this position, is now involved more with administrative duties, but is still focused on research and still is coordinator of the Sweet Potato Research Station at Chase, La. She heads the virus tested seed program and also evaluates insecticides for sugarcane beetle control.”
Two new varieties released from the Louisiana program last year “are starting to become quite popular,” Finger says. “Orleans, which is similar in many respects to Beauregard, the industry standard, has similar skin, flesh color and taste. It has been well-accepted in the fresh market. Orleans wins over Beauregard in terms of shape — if you have bins side by side, you can see that Orleans is slightly better in shape. Overall, also, hill-to-hill consistency is better.”
The other variety, LA 07-146, is “unique,” she says, in that it’s licensed to ConAgra. “Louisiana growers can grow and sell this variety in the fresh market, but out-of-state growers would need a license to grow it.” It has a “very attractive red skin,” Finger says, and sugar content is similar to Evangeline, “so it’s very sweet. Its biggest strength is yield — it has a 15 percent to 20 percent higher yield than Beauregard.”
The Louisiana station has more than 75 years of sweet potato breeding experience, the oldest program of its kind in the world.
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