- Associated Press - Saturday, October 31, 2015

VARDAMAN, Miss. (AP) - Agricultural experts in Mississippi say dry weather through much of September and October has hurt the sweet potato crop.

A news release from the Mississippi State University Extension Service says the dry fall weather will keep yields from reaching full potential.

Jamie Earp, president of the Mississippi Sweet Potato Council in Vardaman, said rain that soaked almost the entire state early in the week would have been helpful had it occurred at least a week earlier.

On the bright side, the extension service says demand is keeping prices up for sweet potatoes.

Earp told the Extension Service he believes demand for the product will keep growing.

One down year won’t change the positive outlook, Earp said. “Sweet potatoes used to be something the family would eat at Thanksgiving or Christmas, but it is now getting to be more of a year-round food because it provides health benefits,” he said. “There are more health-conscious people looking for different food options.”

More than 100 sweet potato growers in the state planted 23,200 acres of the crop, which is up about 12 percent from acreage planted in 2014. That acreage is second only to North Carolina in the U.S. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Oct. 26 Crop Progress and Condition Report, 79 percent of Mississippi’s crop has been harvested.

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