La. sweet potato harvest slowed by rain

Richard Bogren, Smith, Tara  |  10/6/2009 11:44:12 PM

News Release Distributed 10/06/09

Heavy rains since mid-September have severely delayed sweet potato harvest in some northern Louisiana parishes, according to the LSU AgCenter.

“Some production areas have had from 7 to 20 inches of rain,” said Dr. Tara Smith, LSU AgCenter sweet potato specialist and research coordinator at the LSU AgCenter’s Sweet Potato Research Station in Chase, La. “We know we’ll see some losses in low-lying areas of some fields.”

Smith said sweet potato harvest has been delayed by a couple of weeks in some areas, and harvest statewide is about 35-40 percent completed, compared with 50-60 percent completion at this time in a typical year.

Although rain itself isn’t a problem, “prolonged wet conditions can cause roots to break down and affect yields,” the sweet potato expert said.

“Where we haven’t had much rain, average yields are good, but not a bumper crop,” Smith said, adding that yields are running between 350 and 500 bushels per acre.

“South Louisiana was dry for much of the production season, but producers are harvesting a good crop,” Smith said. “Producers are pleased.”

A new sweet potato variety, Evangeline, was released by the LSU AgCenter in 2007, and this is the second season producers have planted it.

“Evangeline performed well,” Smith said. “It held up better than other varieties last year and seems to be performing well this year. Yields and quality are good.”

She said producers plan to plant even more acreage to Evangeline next year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates 2009 Louisiana sweet potato acreage at 15,000 acres.

In 2008, Louisiana sweet potato growers received more than $27 million in gross farm value compared with $65 million in 2007, a more typical year devoid of hurricanes, according to the LSU AgCenter’s annual Ag Summary.

Rick Bogren

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