Louisiana sweet potato crop looks promising

By Nikki Henderson | nhenderson@ktalnews.tv

Published 07/18 2014 11:52AM

Updated 07/18 2014 11:55AM

Following several years with decreased acres and growers getting out of the industry, this year looks a lot better for the Louisiana sweet potato industry.
The improvements in the industry can be directly related to new producers and new varieties.

Research coordinator of the LSU AgCenter Sweet Potato Research Station Tara Smith said, "Over the last few years, we've had some growers retire," Smith said.  We're seeing some changes and growth in the industry, and the two new varieties that were recently released by the AgCenter are all playing a role in the improvements."

This year the number of acres planted has risen to just over 9,000 acres, but Smith would like to see it go higher.

Smith said, "I would be happy if we could increase to 10,000-12,000 acres over the next few years. There is potential for more acreage in the state."

With approximately 25 commercial producers, Louisiana sweet potatoes are planted in early May and harvested from the end of August through early November.

Smith said, "In addition to sweet potatoes being a very profitable crop for the grower, it is also a powerhouse of nutrition for the consumer. They are high in vitamin C, beta carotene and fiber."

Smith and her staff at the Sweet Potato Research Station are preparing now for their semi-annual field day, which is scheduled for Aug. 7.
Smith said, "We'll focus on the breeding and foundation seed program, our production and pest management research that we have ongoing at the station, and we will be demonstrating some new equipment."

About 80 percent of the sweet potato crop is grown in the northern parishes of Franklin, Richland, West Carroll and Morehouse. The rest are grown in Avoyelles, Acadia, St. Landry and Evangeline parishes.

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