Sweet potato growers optomistic about 2010 crop

From staff and wire reports
June 17, 2010 at 3:38 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Farmers have finished planting much of Louisiana’s sweet potato crop, and its success is crucial to many farmers who are struggling financially after two bad years.

“Our Louisiana sweet potato industry has to have a good year in 2010,” said Tara Smith, LSU AgCenter sweet potato specialist. “Our producers have encountered negative conditions in 2009 and 2008 where they, in some cases, did not harvest over 50 percent of their crop. They’ve got to harvest 100 percent of a good-quality crop this year to get back on their feet.”

The state lost one sweet potato grower because of economic conditions, but others are optimistic conditions will improve this year. Smith expects growers to plant around 14,000 acres – about the same as last year.

“Acreage compared to the last five or six years is down slightly because of the seasons we’ve encountered in 2008 and 2009 and the disastrous harvest conditions,” she said.
Weather, which complicated planting for many other crops, cooperated with sweet potato planting.

“We’ve had some dry areas, and there are a couple of producers that are behind, but most of them are on track,” Smith said. “Several of them have even finished planting, which for second week of June is great timing for the crop.”
The variety Beauregard still dominates the acreage, but Smith says some growers are planting several hundred acres of the new variety Evangeline. The LSU AgCenter released the variety in 2007.

“Unfortunately during 2008 and 2009 we weren’t able to get a good look at Evangeline because of the negative harvesting conditions, so we’re optimistic that 2010 will really show us the potential of Evangeline on a commercial scale,” she said.
Evangeline is a sweeter potato, with a high sucrose level with yields that are comparable to Beauregard, according to the LSU AgCenter.

This article was courtesy of the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center.

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