Sweet Potato Trial Results

— Written By

Sweet Potato Variety Trial in Rockingham County

A small demonstration and one farm sweet potato variety trial was conducted in Rockingham County from March – October 2019. Nine different varieties as well as 1 acre of the variety Orleans were bedded and planted.

NC State University Specialists who worked with on the project were Alan Thornton mainly and Jim Walgenbach on an insect problem.

Disease problems with the bedding potatoes due to a wet 2018 spread out planting dates as some varieties had to be bedded twice to get enough to plant. The 2019 season hot and dry. Poast was applied for weed control.

The varieties that yield the most sweet potatoes were NC 198, Covington, and Orleans. The second highest yields were Bayou Belle, Bellevue, and Burgandy. Lowest yield was Puerto Rico.

A harvest day at the demonstration had 13 people attend. A field day at the farm was held August 27, 2019. Only 4 farmers attended as pouring rain. During the 2019 growing season many growers and agents asked about the trial and results, the last being 2 growers on March 12, 2020 getting ready to bed for this year.

At the Farm Safety Day, the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Rockingham County agent cooked samples of the sweet potato varieties and made sweet potato smoothies. He arranged the table to demonstrate Safety during Farmers Market Sampling. Sixty one people attended this event.

One Extension Volunteer Club learned and sampled the sweet potato varieties as well. Twenty three people attend most large gardeners or small family growers.

Once the sweet potatoes were harvested, it was interesting to observe the marketability of the different varieties locally. Samples were given at the Field Day, Demonstration Harvest, Farm Safety Day, from the office and sold from the farm. The varieties with the highest yields were preferred by consumers, as traditional sweet potato appearance. Rockingham County consumers were not as interested in white sweet potatoes so Bonita and Murasaki were almost always left. One chef and a few people asked for the white. The darker purple colored sweet potatoes Bayou Belle and Burgandy as well as copper colored Bellevue were the varieties the consumers mentioned liking the flavor best – once they tried them.

The farmer with the on-farm test is planting more Orleans this year and other growers NC-198 and Covington. As an agent I learned a lot about sweet potatoes, varieties, purchasing potatoes and problems with wet seed potatoes, insects, planting, harvesting, labor issues, and selling from conducting this trial. Many photos as project progressed shared on Facebook.