With harvest 90 percent complete, quality is good and plenty of cured Louisiana sweet potatoes will be available for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays and beyond, according to LSU AgCenter sweet potato specialist Tara Smith.

Louisiana producers are experiencing a “good average crop” and a good year compared with 2008 and 2009, she said. Those years faced a hurricane and heavy rainfall.

“Thirty-five percent of the crop is moved through Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Smith said, “and consumers want cured sweet potatoes year-round.”

They use them for more than baking, she said, citing fries, baby food, canned and frozen potatoes, cookies, juice and pet food.

“For the most part, it was a hot and dry production season,” Smith said. “Producers with irrigation got the crop planted in a timely manner.”

The sweet potatoes “were a little slow to ‘size’ because of the hot temperature, but good weather in October compensated, and harvest went full speed ahead,” she said. Producers in Avoyelles Parish, however, received heavy rain in August and experienced some yield loss.

The sugarcane beetle was the most prevalent insect, but its activity will decrease with the cooler weather. “We will continue to research and develop management for the sugarcane beetle,” Smith said.

Weeds were not a problem any more than normal, she said.

Average total yields are ranging around 350 to 400 bushels per acre, Smith said. She expects a slight increase in sweet potato acreage next year.