Busy tropical season causes problems for Louisiana sweet potato farmers

Agriculture

Workers harvest sweet potatoes in a field farmed by Black Gold Farms in Delhi, Louisiana, on Oct. 23, 2020.

DELHI, La. (LSU AgCenter) As Louisiana sweet potato farmers near the finish line in this year’s harvest, a clearer picture is emerging of how much damage was wrought by heavy rains that were dumped on their fields during a busy tropical storm season.

Up to 40% of the crop was damaged in Avoyelles Parish, while Acadia Parish producers escaped the back-to-back tropical systems from August to October with virtually no problems. Damage estimates for northeastern Louisiana farms fall everywhere in between.

Louisiana has 6,600 to 6,700 acres of sweet potatoes this year, about 70% of which has been harvested, said LSU AgCenter extension associate Myrl Sistrunk. Some growers are digging up rotten potatoes in fields that took on water during the recent storms, particularly Hurricane Delta in October.

Hurricane Laura in August and Tropical Storm Beta in September didn’t cause major problems, Sistrunk said. In fact, “some locations were needing some rainfall,” he said.

Delta was a different story. Some farmers sent photos and videos to Sistrunk showing potatoes floating out of flooded fields.

Most northeastern Louisiana growers have storm-related damage on about 10% of their crop. Morehouse Parish is an exception; Sistrunk estimates 20% to 25% of the crop there is rotten or otherwise damaged.

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