Sweet Potato Production in Mississippi
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 “seed” produce vegetative shoots. After several weeks, and 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, sweet potatoes are stored at 55 to 60°F with approximately 85 to 90% 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.
Other Sweet Potato Information