This big question is still what will be the precise amount of damage caused to the North Carolina sweet potato crop by Hurricane Florence and the remnants of tropical storm Michael. It will take at the least weeks, if not months, and perhaps even until next spring.
Many growers saw double-digit rainfall amounts dumped on their fields from Hurricane Florence September 10-11. If that wasn’t bad enough, Michael dumped another three to four inches of rain on fields a month later.
It is simply too soon to tell how the excess water will affect the sweet potatoes when packing begins. On the positive side, there is optimism regarding the quality of the crop that had been harvested prior Michael hitting.
Michael hit North Carolina on October 12 and most growers are believed to have harvested 80 percent of the crop. The sweet potato fields have since dried and harvest should be completed in November, or when the first hard frost occurs.
A primary concern now is related to disease. Although it hasn’t shown up thus far, it could be a problem after the sweet potatoes are put in storage for at least a couple of months. In fact, watching for disease in storage will continue until next spring.
Nash Produce LLC of Nashville, NC knows their will be crop damage, but just how much is the question. At this point Nash Produce is reporting no problem with sweet potatoes.
As of October 13th, season-to-date North Carolina sweet potato shipments totaled 14.9 million pounds, down from 43.2 million pounds the same time a year ago.
North Carolina sweet potato farms did not plant as many sweet potatoes this year due to low prices last season.
The USDA reports U.S. sweet potato acreage planted in 2018 is 157,200 acres, compared to 159,300 acres a year ago. However, no estimate from the USDA has been released yet.