Quantcast

North Carolina Produces 60% of the Country’s Sweet Potatoes. The Crop Is in Trouble

Food
Logan Mock-Bunting / Aurora / Getty Images

By Dan Nosowitz

North Carolina dominates the country's production in sweet potatoes the way few other states dominate few other crops.


The state produces about 60 percent of the country's total sweet potato crop, more than the next three states—California, Mississippi, and Louisiana—combined. Hurricane Florence's path of destruction has been fairly well tracked for livestock, especially pigs and chickens, but for plants, the damage is much less certain.

The Charlotte Observer dives deep into this year's sweet potato crop, finding that the rainfall from Florence fell at just the wrong time, and in just the wrong way. The sweet potato crops are near harvest, unlike the previous nasty hurricane, Matthew, which came in early October of 2016. Also unlike Matthew, Florence dropped a great deal of water over an extended three-day period, not allowing the floodwater to drain off.

Sweet potatoes are not fantastically choosy plants, but one thing they can't handle is periods of water saturation. The tubers, which are what we mostly eat, become waterlogged, soggy, and rotten, and are generally unsellable. (The leaves and vines of the plant are also perfectly edible and tasty, unlike the barely related potato, but sweet potato greens are not eaten all that often in most of the U.S.)

Even worse, this year, according to the Charlotte Observer, sweet potato farmers delayed harvest due to a dry summer, hoping for a little extra time and rain to get their tubers up to weight. Florence was not really what they wanted.

Some farmers will try to leave their sweet potatoes in the ground for a little while longer, to hope that they dry out a bit before harvest. Nobody knows exactly what the damage will be, though some estimate it could be in the 25-35 percent loss range. As a result of the pessimistic outlook, prices of sweet potatoes jumped by about $2 per carton.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Actress Jane Fonda (C) and actor Sam Waterston (L) participate in a protest in front of the U.S. Capitol during a "Fire Drill Fridays" climate change protest and rally on Capitol Hill, Oct. 18. Mark Wilson / Getty Images News

It appears Jane Fonda is good for her word. The actress and political activist said she would hold demonstrations on Capitol Hill every Friday through January to demand action on the climate crisis. Sure enough, Fonda was arrested for demonstrating a second Friday in a row Oct. 18, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Only this time, her Grace and Frankie co-star Sam Waterston joined her.

Read More Show Less
Visitors look at the Aletsch glacier above Bettmeralp, in the Swiss Alps, on Oct. 1. The mighty Aletsch — the largest glacier in the Alps — could completely disappear by the end of this century if nothing is done to rein in climate change, a study showed on Sept. 12. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP via Getty Images

Switzerland's two Green parties made historic gains in the country's parliamentary elections Sunday, according to projections based on preliminary results reported by The New York Times.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A mural in Richwood, West Virginia, a once booming Appalachia coal town, honors the community's history. Jeff Greenberg / Universal Images Group / Getty Images

By Jeff Turrentine

The coal industry is dying. But we can't allow the communities that have been dependent on coal to die along with it.

Read More Show Less
ThitareeSarmkasat / iStock / Getty Images

by Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Every fruit lover has their go-to favorites. Bananas, apples, and melons are popular choices worldwide and can be purchased almost anywhere.

Read More Show Less
belchonock / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Hrefna Palsdottir, MS

Coconut oil is an incredibly healthy fat.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Wesley Martinez Da Costa / EyeEm / Getty Images

By David R. Montgomery

Would it sound too good to be true if I was to say that there was a simple, profitable and underused agricultural method to help feed everybody, cool the planet, and revitalize rural America? I used to think so, until I started visiting farmers who are restoring fertility to their land, stashing a lot of carbon in their soil, and returning healthy profitability to family farms. Now I've come to see how restoring soil health would prove as good for farmers and rural economies as it would for the environment.

Read More Show Less
skaman306 / Moment / Getty Images

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Radish (Raphanus sativus) is a cruciferous vegetable that originated in Asia and Europe (1Trusted Source).

Read More Show Less
Tinnakorn Jorruang / iStock / Getty Images

By Dan Nosowitz

The budding research on cannabidiol, or CBD, attracts a great deal of interest in the agricultural field.

Read More Show Less