Sweet potato growers learn latest at LSU AgCenter field day

Mary Ann Van Osdell, Story, Richard N., Villordon, Arthur O., Smith, Tara, Clark, Christopher A.  |  8/30/2011 1:36:16 AM

Arthur Villordon, LSU AgCenter associate professor, holds up a sweet potato at a recent field day. (Photo by Mary Ann Van Osdell)

News Release Distributed 08/29/11

OAK GROVE, La. – Researchers from the LSU AgCenter’s Sweet Potato Research Station showed growers how to optimize production at a field day on the Lee Jones and Sons Farm on Aug. 24.

Chris Clark, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist, said a sweet potato variety similar to Evangeline but with even better tolerance to field flooding is slated for release this fall.

Other characteristics of the new variety are red skin and deep orange flesh, less bent roots than the Beauregard variety, high sugar content, excellent plant production and resistance to disease.

Clark said the LSU AgCenter screens all breeding lines for various diseases.

“Around the world, 30 viruses occur in sweet potatoes,” Clark said, explaining that researchers look at how, where and when viruses spread in the field.

Arthur Villordon, LSU AgCenter associate professor, said this has been a challenging year to grow any crop, but that sweet potatoes are fairly resistant to drought because they are able to use moisture in the deep part of the soil. “We are looking for good yields for those who got rainfall and irrigation at the right time and place,” he said.

He discussed deploying sensors in growers’ fields to collect soil moisture data and rainfall. “This year, soil moisture is important,” Villordon said. “If you don’t have soil moisture, they’re not going to grow.”

Ted McDermott, sweet potato manager for R.D. Offutt Co., said he recommends the moisture probe Villordon discussed. “It is a helpful tool to apply the science of what’s going on in the crop.

“The LSU AgCenter is our guide,” McDermott said.

Rick Story, LSU AgCenter entomologist, said there has been advancement in pesticides, with a lot more choices available. Story said he and Tara Smith, extension sweet potato specialist, put out chemical tests in grower fields every year, preplant and layby applications, to compare yield and quality.

Smith said the LSU AgCenter is working with four producers to evaluate labeled insecticides at different timings in large strip trial tests to help manage the sugarcane beetle.

She said the AgCenter is also sampling sugarcane beetle populations with black lights and sticky traps. “I don’t see this beetle as a sporadic pest any longer,” Smith said. “Seed treatments are not catching this insect.”

Donnie Miller, LSU AgCenter weed specialist, said researchers are looking to broaden the options in weed management. “We don’t have a whole big arsenal we can look at,” he said.

He said most of his calls are about alligatorweed and that Sept. 15-Oct. 15 is the optimum time to initiate treatment with glyphosate.

Attending the field day were 85 producers, processors and agrichemical company representatives from as far as North Carolina and Oklahoma.

Mary Ann Van Osdell
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