A new sweet potato specialist has joined forces with Mississippi growers as they produce and promote one of the state’s favorite vegetable crops.
Stephen Meyers, a native of northern Indiana, is working with growers whose fields are largely centered in or around Calhoun and Chickasaw counties. He earned his bachelor’s degree in horticultural production and marketing, with a minor in weed science, from Purdue University. He received master’s and doctoral degrees in weed management from North Carolina State University.
“Some of our growers’ biggest challenges are weed control, nematodes and disease pressure,” he said. “We are always looking for ways to help with all these issues.”
Meyers said growers have few options for controlling weeds. “Most of the registered herbicides are preemergence products that require a rain to activate. Once weeds are up and growing, there are not many options for control. Then, weeds compete for sunlight, water and nutrients, and eventually they slow down harvest.”
Another challenge growers face is the amount of waste from culled potatoes.
“MSU is looking for viable uses for culls, such as livestock feed or ethanol use. In a field with a severe outbreak of tip rot, growers could lose as much as 30 percent of their potatoes,” said Meyers.
Steve Martin, newly appointed head of the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Verona, said Meyers is a great addition to MSU’s research and Extension program.
“Dr. Meyers comes to Mississippi with a good understanding of the sweet potato industry and production issues,” he said. “We expect him to form strong relationships with growers as we work together to increase yields and profits of this much-loved crop.”
Meyers’ office is located at the Pontotoc Ridge-Flatwoods Branch Experiment Station at 8320 Hwy 15 South. He can be reached at (662) 489-4621 or [email protected]