Potatoes—Small, But Quality Production in State
Auburn, May 10,
2001---Growers in Alabama
devote about 3,000 to 3,500 acres to sweet potato production. While
sweet potato acreage may not reach the record levels of the 1990s,
growers are producing more on the acres in production.
Baldwin County farmer
Leonard Kichler and his wife, Susan, grow sweet potatoes as part of
his diversified farm effort.
"I've seen my
yields go up over the last several years," says Kichler, who
raises his sweet potatoes without irrigation. "That increase is
probably related to several things including better management on my
part, better plant stock and the weather. The weather may not always
be favorable, but we still make a crop because sweet potatoes can
endure some dry weather."
Kichler has been farming
on his own for about six years, but he's worked with sweet potatoes
since he was a boy on his father's farm.
horticulturist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System says a
decrease in acreage does not equate to a decrease in overall yield.
"For the last
several years, acreage has declined," says Joe Kemble, an
Extension horticulturist who works primarily with commercial
vegetable producers. "But, during those years, yield per acre
In 2001, the average
yield per acre of sweet potatoes was 17,000 pounds. The yields per
acre for the two previous years were 14,500 and 13,000 pounds
more than ever focused on a quality product," says Kemble.
"They know that quality combined with quantity is essential to
the profitability of their operations."
One way Alabama farmers
are improving their production efforts is the use of disease-free
seed stock, purchased from the North Alabama Horticulture Substation
in Cullman. The substation, a branch of the Alabama Agricultural
Experiment Station at Auburn University,
produces the certified
seed from tissue cultures of disease-free plants developed at
Louisiana State University.
growers replace one-third of their seed stock on a yearly
basis," says Kemble. "Although this represents an
immediate cost to growers, he will be rewarded at harvest time with
increased quality roots and higher marketable yields."
Most sweet potato
growers in Cullman County wholesale their crops after curing it.
Curing improves the storage life of the sweet potato as well as its
quality and flavor components. However, some growers along the Gulf
Coast prefer to sell their crop fresh to area produce markets and
Source: Dr. Joe Kemble,
Horticulturist, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, (334)
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