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Considerations When Planting Sweet Potatoes

Chuck Bornt, Team Leader, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture

May 24, 2018

  1. Fertility:  sweet potatoes are not heavy nitrogen feeders and typically only require about 50 pounds of actual nitrogen - additional amounts can lead to more growth cracking and rough root appearances.  Varieties such as Beauregard and Covington are less sensitive to the nitrogen levels, but still do not require much more than the recommended 50 lbs.  They are however high potassium consumers requiring 120—150 pounds of actual potassium.  Potassium helps ensure uniform roots and is essential for flavor and storability.  Sweet potatoes require 60 pounds per acre of phosphorous, but these levels should be adjusted to your soil type and frequent soil nutrient testing.
  2. Try to plant them as soon as you receive your plants—do not try to hold on to them for more than a couple of days.  If you can't plant them right away, do not put them in a cooler—keep them in a cool, shady area. Coolers can be too cold and result in the plants getting injured.  If possible, open the boxes and spread your slips out if you can't get them planted right away.
  3. Do not "soak" your plants in water!  This does not help and usually only makes them slimy and encourages bacterial breakdowns. If you need to hold your plants for more than 3 or 4 days, place them standing up in shallow trays filled with sand or potting mix and keep the media moist.
  4. Make sure the beds you are planting in are moist and maintain good moisture for at least 7—10 days after planting to ensure the plants start to root well.
  5. Planting is probably one of the most labor consuming issues with this crop.  Personally, if you are planting on plastic much with a waterwheel, I think the standard spike leaves to large of a hole in plastic and is very slow.  They don't really necessarily need the water from the wheel if your beds are good and moist to begin with. Giving your crew a couple pieces of 3/8 - ½" rebar and letting them poke and plant is quicker and doesn't leave that huge hole in the plastic.  To keep your spacing, you can attach a flag or piece of wood to the rebar and gauge it that way or eyeball it. 
  6. Along with #6, the deeper the hole when you plant the better and the rebar allows you to make the holes nice and deep (and straight, not at an angle like the waterwheel)!  Make sure your slips are planted as deep as you can get them without burying the growing point.  Each node along the stem is potential for more yield! 
  7. Spacing:  everyone uses different spacing, but research we conducted several years ago indicated that when using beds mulched with black plastic (30—36" wide), using a single row down the middle of the bed 12—15" apart or a double staggered row (like for peppers) at 18" apart in the row and 12" between the rows worked best.

 

The last bit of information that I'll leave you with is while doing some recent reading, it was brought to my knowledge that sweet potatoes actually do not fare well in soils with high levels of organic matter.  High levels of organic matter have been linked to root staining and some overall poor root quality such as long spindly roots (probably the result of too much nitrogen being released from the organic matter). 

 This article was printed in the May 24th, 2018 issue of ENYCHP Veg News. To view the full newsletter, click here.

sweet potato

 



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Upcoming Events

Soil Health for Vegetable Growers Workshop

Event Offers DEC Credits

November 1, 2023
Essex, NY

Join us for presentations, discussions, and hands-on demonstrations focusing on soil health concepts and best management practices for vegetable growers. Topics include tarping, maintaining soil health in high tunnels, cover cropping, reduced tillage, compost microbiology, and more.

1.75 DEC pesticide recertification credits available in categories 1A, 10, and 23.

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Announcements

2023 Spotted Wing Drosophila Monitoring/Management

All berry farmers are watching for monitoring reports that indicate Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) adults are in their region. Mid-season berry crops should be sprayed as soon as berries begin to ripen unless you've elected to use insect exclusion netting.

- For general information about SWD, and to enroll for free monitoring reports, visit the Cornell SWD blog https://blogs.cornell.edu/swd1/.
- Click here for the 2023 Quick Guide for Pesticide Management. 
- For some great instructional videos and fact sheets on insect exclusion netting, visit the University of Vermont's Ag Engineering blog.


Resources from CCE ENYCHP!

We are developing new ways to connect with the CCE ENYCHP team this year! We have a Youtube page located at this link. Check out videos on Table Grape Production, Pest Updates and the 20 Minute Ag Manager - in 4 Minutes series

We have a Facebook Page here as well as an Instagram page. We keep these places updated with current projects, events, and other interesting articles and deadlines.

There are also text alerts available. Fruit and vegetable farmers in 17 Eastern NY counties can now receive real time alerts on high risk disease and pest outbreaks texted directly to their cell phone. The Eastern NY Commercial Horticulture program, which is supported by local Cornell Cooperative Extension associations, will now offer text alerts to those that enroll in our program in 2019. 

The text alerts will be reserved for important crop alerts that could impact management decisions immediately. For instance, if there were an outbreak of Late Blight in the area, this would be transmitted to vegetable growers.

Farmers can choose the crop for which they wish to receive updates. Additionally they can request that Ag Business Alerts be sent to them. These alerts might include due dates for crop insurance deadlines, market opportunities etc.

If you have questions, please contact enychp@cornell.edu


Podcasts

Winter Greens Grower Interviews in Northern New York

October 22, 2022
In this episode, vegetable specialist Elisabeth Hodgdon interviews Lindsey Pashow, ag business development and marketing specialist with the Cornell Cooperative Extension Harvest New York team. They discuss findings from a series of interviews with winter greens producers in northern New York. Lindsey shares production and marketing challenges associated with growing winter greens in this cold and rural part of the state, success stories and advice from growers, and tips for those interested in adding new crop enterprises to their operation.

Funding for this project was provided by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program. The episode was edited by Miles Todaro of the ENYCHP team.

Resources:
• Crop enterprise budget resources available from Penn State Extension (field and tunnel vegetables: https://extension.psu.edu/small-scale-field-grown-and-season-extension-budgets), UMass Extension (winter spinach budgets: https://ag.umass.edu/vegetable/outreach-project/improving-production-yield-of-winter-greens-in-northeast and field vegetables: https://ag.umass.edu/vegetable/fact-sheets/crop-production-budgets), and Cornell Cooperative Extension (high tunnel vegetables: https://blogs.cornell.edu/hightunnels/economics/sample-budgets-spreadsheets/). Use these budgets as templates when developing your own crop enterprise budget.
• The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook, by Richard Wiswall
• The Winter Harvest Handbook, by Eliot Coleman

For questions about the winter greens project discussed in this podcast, reach out to Lindsey Pashow (lep67@cornell.edu) or Elisabeth Hodgdon(eh528@cornell.edu).

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