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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 - " 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

High Tech Precision Orchard Spraying

July 20, 2020

Join us the afternoon of July 20th to learn what's new in orchard precision spraying technology. We'll be joined by Dr. Jason Deveau, Dr. Heping Zhu, and Steve Booher.  After their presentations, we will open up the meeting for all three presenters to field questions and comments. 

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Announcements

U-Pick Farm Practices During Covid-19 Pandemic

U-Pick is a critical direct marketing approach for many of our farms and provides
customers with a unique connection to fresh produce grown close to home. In light
of what we understand about the spread of COVID-19, new management practices
will be needed to protect your farm team and your customers. This document
provides recommended practices and communication strategies for U-Pick
operations for the 2020 season.

https://rvpadmin.cce.cornell.edu/uploads/doc_864.pdf

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

2020 Biweekly Vegetable News Podcast - Episode 6 7/1/20

July 2, 2020
The July 1st, 2020 edition of the Eastern New York Vegetable News covers the following topics:

Cucurbit Downy Mildew Update (1:05)
Changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (9:10)
Managing Caterpillar Pests in Brassicas (12:53)
Strawberry Renovation (17:56)
Developing a Safety Plan to Comply with NY Forward Phased Re-Opening Requirements (24:12)

Here are links to additional resources mentioned in the episode:

NY Forward Safety Plans
Introductory “how to” video for writing your plan:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2PH3wCgdhc&feature=youtu.be

Cornell Agricultural Workforce Development NY Forward business safety plan support for farms
https://agworkforce.cals.cornell.edu/ny-forward-business-safety-plan/
• Plan templates
• Guidance and considerations for plan writing
• Links to “how to” videos
• Links to additional resources such as log templates, hand washing station plans, and more
• Webinar recordings

NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets novel coronavirus page: Guidance documents for farm businesses in multiple languages
https://agriculture.ny.gov/coronavirus

Strawberry Renovation
For more in-depth information re: strawberry renovation, visit http://www.hort.cornell.edu/fruit/nybn/newslettpdfs/2014/nybn1306.pdf.

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