Buyers should expect a return to normal volumes of Mississippi sweet potatoes, with fully cured product available by October.

The state should harvest about 18,000 acres, down from 20,000 acres last year, said Benny Graves, executive secretary of the Mississippi Sweet Potato Council, Starkville.

“We’re optimistic about the condition of our crop,” Graves said. He said growing conditions were above average to good.

“We had ample moisture and some fluctuations, which is normal,” Graves said.

Mississippi acreage dips slightly

Mississippi Sweet Potato Council

Mississippi growers should harvest about 2,000 fewer acres this year compared to the previous season. Growing conditions for the 18,000-acre crop have been good, says Benny Graves, executive secretary of the Mississippi Sweet Potato Council.

The last 12 days of June had a heat index over 100 degrees each day, causing transplants to die back, said Bobby Whitt, president, C&W Farms, Vardaman, Miss.

“The early plantings look real good,” Whitt said. “The later ones don’t look so hot, but that’s something we don’t have control over.”

The state had a wet July, with up to 10 inches on some farms, and rains continuing in early August, he said.

C&W Farms, which will sell sweet potatoes from about 1,500 acres, should have some green sweet potatoes around the end of August, with cured sweet potatoes available around Oct. 1, he said.

Missiana Produce, Bruce, Miss., is marketing from about 2,000 acres in the area, said George Wooten, president. Missiana is a division of Wayne E. Bailey Produce Co., Chadbourn, N.C.

The company started digging its Mississippi sweet potatoes in late August, and will begin selling cured product about Oct. 1.

“We might get some a little sooner, around the middle of September,” Wooten said. “A lot of it depends on the humidity. The higher the humidity the harder it is to tighten the skin and cure them.”

Wooten said the growing season has had a few “humps and bumps” with spates of dry weather interspersed with heavier rains.

At Edmondson Farms, Vardaman, Miss., acreage is up, but sales manager and partner Trey Boyette said he doesn’t expect the same kinds of yields as last year.

“Last year, we had phenomenal yields,” Boyette said. “This year, I expect it to be yields to be above normal, but not phenomenal.”

Like many growers in the state, Edmondson Farms grows beauregards strictly.

Boyette said cured product would be available by early to mid-October. “We’ll have 2008 product all the way until our new crop of cured potatoes come in,” he added.

Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc. has a Mississippi sweet potato deal, which is packed in Calhoun City, Miss.

This year, L&M has about 600 acres in Mississippi, said Jeff Axelberg, salesman for potatoes and onions.

“Growing conditions have been real good. We’re real excited,” Axelberg said. “Harvesting should be wrapped up by the end of September.”