Conversion to sweet potatoes has growers seeing green

08/13/2012 12:33:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

Farmers are seeing green from growing an orange tuberous crop.

Former small-scale tobacco farmers in Kentucky have enjoyed gross profits of up to $7,000 per acre from sweet potatoes.

Among the reasons are relatively low inputs and a short learning curve, according to a news release.

For example, a lot of the equipment used for tobacco can also be used for sweet potatoes, particularly transplanters.

University of Kentucky Extension Vegetable specialist Tim Coolong received a 2009 Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education grant to demonstrate sweet potato growing.

About 15 farmers—most of whom formerly grew tobacco—have been helped by his work.

In Mississippi, SARE-funded research helped growers adopt sustainable practices and showcased organic production.

Outside of using pesticides to control wireworms, few other pest-control materials are needed for sweet potatoes, according to the release.

In fact, some sweet potato growers were able to produce a crop without pesticides.

Coolong has translated his findings into a 16-page guide that's free to download.

Mississippi State University researcher Ramon Arancibia worked with three farmers near Vardaman, Miss., and others in Arkansas.

His trials found that organically grown sweet potatoes suffered far less pest damage compared to conventionally grown ones.

By using a cover crop, growers can improve the soil structure, which is even more critical with root crops.

"The soil structure needs to be very good so the potatoes can grow in a nice shape,” Arancibia said in the release.

He is sharing his findings with the 104-member Mississippi Sweet Potato Growers Council.

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Nathan Ashcraft    
idaho  |  August, 16, 2012 at 03:24 PM

They have one of the best biofumigants at their disposal. Tobacco when decaying will kill nematodes.

Montana  |  August, 17, 2012 at 09:14 AM

That's interesting because nematodes are a major pest in tobacco.

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