Encouraging Expanded Organic Sweet Potato Production in North Carolina
As previously shared commercial organic sweet potato production in North Carolina is limited, yet even with its limitations still amounts to nearly 1000 acres, according to USDA statistics. Market potential for expansion of organic acres is available but without data to share with growers it will remain only a potential.
During our first season (2012) we compiled data learned from surveying organic growers regarding growing methods which included cultural practices, yield as well as quality. From this the first field trials were developed. Findings were shared at the annual field day in October.
Season two (2013) was spent in an effort to determine the effect of cover crops (using Wheat and Austrian pea) and wicking applications of GreenMatch herbicide on Palmer amaranth control, yield and quality of the ‘Covington” sweet potato.
1. Develop and deploy a survey of organic growers to gather information on current in-state organic growing methods
2. Apply the survey data to facilitate designing and conducting comparative organic sweet potato growing tests. The tests will couple prior NCSU research with current on-farm practices to create several scenarios. Replicated tests will occur at several on-farm locations and at the NCSU organic research station.
3. Gather and compile the resultant data (cultural practices, yield, quality, and costs).
4. Present the findings to NC sweet potato growers through field days and direct outreach.
Planting was delayed due to the abnormal weather conditions in the spring consisting of lower than normal temperatures and high rainfall amounts which delayed slip (transplant) production. Generally sweet potato is planted in NC from mid-May to late June, however 2013 season did not see planting until mid-July and into August.
Replicated tests were conducted however with the delayed planting it was necessary to dig the Sweet potatoes prior to their preferred harvest time of between 90 to 120 days after planting to avoid rotting of the Sweet potatoes in the field which was caused by low temperatures and increased rainfall over the season. Therefore we harvested sweet potato storage roots at 105 days after planting resulting in little results to original inquiry.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Unfortunately results from this study are not quite as expected. Several factors influenced the results. Water stood in the first replication for several days at a time during several periods in the season. It appeared that the cover crops did not have an effect on Palmer amaranth emergence and growth. Visually, weed population appeared to be similar. Because of these results we sought extension allowing for these tests to be recreated in the 2014 crop year in hopes to provide better data to share with the growers of North Carolina. We are currently ramping up for such tests.