Development of the orleans variety may hasten the departure of the beauregard as the major alternative sweet potato variety to the covington, according to researchers at Louisiana State University’s Sweet Potato Research Station in Chase, La.
Variety development, as well as upgrading production efficiency and yields, is a major part of the station’s work, said Tara Smith, extension specialist.
“The covington in North Carolina has really transformed that industry,” Smith said.
The covington had replaced the beauregard there, she said.
“The majority of their acreage is planted in that variety, and they realize yields and packouts and quality are better, and it does real well for that state.”
The orleans offers improved yield compared to the beauregard, and the new variety likely will be widely adopted across the Gulf South growing region, Smith said.
“Particularly the breeders are trying to develop varieties that help the industry and the growers with not only yields but quality packout consistency that will meet the needs of the buyers,” she said.
The beauregard remains the predominant variety in Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas, Smith said.
“You have some covingtons and some evangelines, which is another variety that was released in 2007, but the covington and beauregard dominate the orange-flesh sector of the market,” Smith said.
Scientists at the research station, working with grant money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 2009, looked into developing a variety that can withstand enemies like early season moisture, cool weather and other climatic factors specific to the Gulf South, Smith said.
“We’re looking at growing-degree day models and other things, and we’re making management decisions for the crop,” Smith said.
Researchers also have looked at issues like optimal timing for planting to avert crop stress when it’s most vulnerable, Smith said.
“The growers are really capitalizing on that research, and they’re implementing some of these recommendations and monitoring some of these factors on their farms,” she said.
The orleans is one of two varieties under development in Louisiana. The work focuses on developing varieties with good shape, appealing color and texture, and a high degree of disease resistance, Smith said.
“They’re multifaceted programs,” she said. “They work closely with plant pathologists, entomologists and postharvest physiologists,” she said.
The beauregard remains the chief variety at Iota, La.-based Garber Farms, but Garber grew 200 acres of orleans in 2010 and will expand on that this year, said Matt Garber, partner.
“We like the orleans so far. It’s very similar to the beauregard and has a better shape that gives us a better packout,” Garber said.
He said the orleans also has a “little bit brighter color inside,” which consumers like.
The company first got involved with the orleans four years ago, Garber said.
Rene Simon, executive director of the Baton Rouge-based Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission, said the orleans has promising potential for the state’s industry.
“It has an overall yield equal to the beauregard, but the orleans outperforms it in the amount of No. 1 potatoes produced, thereby increasing the packout,” Simon said.
Growers are excited about the orleans, Simon said.
“They will be increasing its acreage again this year, but it is hard to leave the beauregard since it has been such a great variety.”