STARKVILLE, Miss. (WJTV) – Most of Mississippi’s sweet potatoes are grown far northeast of the state’s worst drought conditions, but the excessive heat and dryness is still factoring in this year’s crop.

Lorin Harvey, sweet potato specialist with the Mississippi State University (MSU) Extension Service, said dry weather affected production more than most growers anticipated. Because of the drought, irrigated acres performed better than potatoes on dryland.

“Those in the Delta who utilized irrigation fared better than many of the growers around Vardaman who were at the mercy of soil moisture at planting and sparse rainfall throughout the growing season,” Harvey said. “We had sparse popup showers around the growing region, but nothing substantial. Several fields went 45 days without a drop of rain during peak root bulking from July to August.”

The lack of precipitation has caused variability in the size of potatoes between fields and increased chances of skinning, making it hard to plan for harvest.

About 65 commercial growers in Mississippi planted about 28,000 acres of sweet potatoes this year.

Overall U.S. sweet potato production is down this year due to a 20 percent acreage reduction in North Carolina, which is the top producing state. Mississippi ranks second.