Mississippi sweet potato growers plant more than 20,000 acres of sweet potatoes each year. The state consistently ranks second in the United States in sweet potato acreage and third in production. In 2012, sweet potatoes were grown on approximately 22,500 acres, producing 394 million pounds of sweet potatoes with an estimated value of $79 million.
Sweet potato production is highly labor intensive. Each spring, a portion of the sweet potato roots produced in the previous year are placed into plant production beds and covered with 2 to 3” of soil. These sweet potato “seeds” produce vegetative shoots.
After several weeks, when the shoots reach 8 to 10” in length, these shoots are cut (by hand or mechanically). The shoots that are cut from the plant beds are called “slips.” Slips are then mechanically transplanted into ridged planting beds 8 to 10” high and 36 to 48” apart in sweet potato production fields.
Three to four months later, sweet potatoes can be harvested. Following harvest, sweet potatoes must be cured to set the skin, heal any wounds or abrasions that occurred during harvest, and increase the quality of the sweet potato flavor. Curing is accomplished by exposing newly harvested sweet potato roots to temperatures of 80 to 85°F with 85 to 90% humidity (typically for 6 to 8 days). Following curing, sweetpotatoes are stored at 55 to 60°F with approximately 85 to 90 percent humidity for up to 12 months.
At Mississippi State University, researchers and extension personnel from multiple departments collaborate to improve all facets of sweet potato production. Current research efforts include the areas of crop production, pest management (weeds, diseases, nematodes, and insects), plant physiology, food science, and agricultural and biological engineering.
- Improving Sweetpotato Packing Line Ergonomics (PowerPoint)
- MSU Sweetpotato Research & Extension Update 2013
- Update on Advanced Sweetpotato Lines
- Mechanical Undercutting to Minimize Sweetpotato Skinning During Harvest
- Southeastern U.S. Vegetable Crop Handbook
- Mississippi Sweetpotato- 2012 Industry Evaluation
- Wild Hog Management
- Sweetpotato Tolerance to Dual Magnum Applications Followed by Simulated Rainfall
- Insect Control Guide for Agronomic Crops
- Weed Control Guidelines for Mississippi Vegetable Crops
- Nematode Thresholds
- Southeastern U.S. Vegetable Crop Handbook
Other Sweetpotato Information
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Most of Mississippi’s sweet potatoes are grown far northeast of the state’s worst drought conditions, but that did not keep excessive heat and dryness from factoring in this year’s crop.
Lorin Harvey, sweet potato specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said dry weather affected production more than most growers anticipated. Because of the drought, irrigated acres performed better than potatoes on dryland.
Sweet potato producers and industry professionals are invited to tour Mississippi State University’s research plots and learn current information about this crop’s production at an Aug. 24 event in northeast Mississippi. The 2023 MSU Sweet Potato Field Day at the Pontotoc Ridge-Flatwoods Branch Experiment Station begins with registration at 8 a.m., followed by a guided tour of ongoing projects that begins about 8:30.
Sweet potato growers in Mississippi can get free nematode testing of soil samples they send to Mississippi State University from now until Dec. 31, 2024. The samples can be submitted in nematode bags available at local county MSU Extension Service offices; samples are also accepted in quart-sized, sealed plastic bags.
VERONA, Miss. -- Producers come across issues each season that need to be addressed, whether they require new research on a problem or a commodity specialist who can help identify timely solutions.
For those people, February is the month to speak up. Specialists and scientists with the Mississippi State University Extension Service and Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station are available specifically for them at three different MSU Research and Extension Center locations throughout the state during annual Producer Advisory Council meetings.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Lorin Harvey has heard from several Mississippi sweet potato growers that the quality of this year’s crop is the best they have seen in 20 years.
“The high quality of the crop is what stands out to me this year,” said Harvey, sweet potato specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “We have to see how things hold up in storage, but I have high hopes.”
Vardaman producer named Farmer of the Year
When Joe Edmondson surveys his farming operation at Topashaw Farms, he thinks about his more than 40 full-time employees and the hundreds of seasonal workers who work the acres.