Commercial sweet potato farming is a very common and popular business in many countries around the globe. Sweet potatoes are available throughout the world and it has great demand and value.
Sweet potato is actually a dicotyledonous plant that belongs to the bindweed or morning glory family, Convolvulaceae. Sweet potatoes are large, starchy and sweet-tasting tuberous roots which are mainly used as a root vegetable.
Sometimes, the young shoots and leaves are also eaten as greens. Numerous varieties/cultivars of the sweet potato have been bred to bear tubers with flesh and skin of various colors.
Among the different varieties of sweet potatoes, the darker sweet potatoes are often referred to as ‘yams’ in some parts of North America (although, the species is not a true yam).
Depending on the varieties/cultivars and climatic conditions, the tuberous roots of the sweet potato generally become mature in 2 to 9 months.
Sweet potatoes have been a part of the diet in the United States for most of it’s history, especially in the Southeast. The average per capita consumption of sweet potatoes in the United States is only about 1.5-2 kg per year (down from 13 kg in 1920).
Total global production of sweet potatoes was 92 million tonnes in the year of 2019, led by China with 56% of the world total. Secondary producers were Malawi, Nigeria and Tanzania.
However, commercial sweet potato farming is a very easy and profitable business. You can start this business for making good amount of profits.
Sweet Potato Nutrition
Sweet potatoes are very healthy and nutritious. Cooked sweet potato contains 2% protein, 21% carbohydrates, 76% water and negligible amount of fat.
A 100 grams baked sweet potato provides 90 calories, rich contents of vitamin A (120% DV), vitamin C (24% DV), manganese (24% DV), and vitamin B6 (20% DV). It is a moderate source (10-19% DV) of some B vitamins and potassium. 
Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are very nutritious and healthy. The tuber is often cooked before consumption as this increases it’s nutrition and digestibility.
However, sweet potatoes are very good for human health and has numerous health benefits. Here we are trying to describe the top health benefits of sweet potatoes.
- Sweet potatoes are highly nutritious. They are good source of calories, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
- Sweet potatoes are also high in antioxidants that protect your body from free radical damage and chronic diseases.
- High amount of fiber and antioxidants in sweet potatoes promote the growth of good gut bacteria and contribute to a healthy gut.
- According to some animal and test-tube research, anthocyanins and other antioxidants found in sweet potatoes may protect against certain cancers.
- Consuming sweet potatoes on a regular basis is good for eye health. Because sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene and anthocyanins and antioxidants.
- Consumption of sweet potatoes may improve brain health by reducing inflammation and preventing mental decline.
- Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene. And beta-carotene can be converted to vitamin A and help to support your immune system and gut health.
Advantages of Sweet Potato Farming Business
Like many other crop farming business, commercial sweet potato farming has also numerous advantages. It’s a very easy but profitable business.
Here we are trying to list the top advantages of commercial sweet potato farming business.
- Starting commercial or large scale sweet potato farming is very easy and simple.
- You can start this business commercially, even if you are a beginner.
- Commercial production of sweet potato is highly profitable and it’s a great way for making good profits.
- Commercial sweet potato farming is already an established business and many people are already doing this business for making money.
- The sweet potato plants are actually very strong and hardy and they generally require less caring and other management.
- Both demand and value of sweet potatoes are good in the market.
- Marketing sweet potatoes is very easy and simple. You will probably be able to easily sell the sweet potatoes in your local market easily.
- Commercial production of sweet potatoes is very profitable. So, it can be a great employment source for the people, especially for the educated but unemployed people.
- Production costs in commercial sweet potato farming business is less as compared to other crop production business.
- Sweet potatoes are highly nutritious and they are very good for human health. And you can enjoy fresh sweet potatoes if you start your own production.
How to Start Sweet Potato Farming Business
Starting sweet potato farming is very easy and simple. You can start this business for money, even if you are a beginner.
You can start commercial sweet potato farming business easily if you follow this guide carefully. Here we are trying to describe more about planting, caring and harvesting sweet potatoes.
Select a Good Location
Selecting a good location for commercial sweet potato farming is very important. Actually sweet potatoes can be grown in variety of soil types ranging from sandy to loamy soil.
But the sweet potato plants perform better and produce more when grown under sandy loam soil having high fertility and good drainage system.
Try to avoid cultivating in very light sandy and heavy clay soil. Because, this type of soil is not good for tuber development. Sweet potatoes require pH level ranging from 5.8 to 6.7.
Prepare the Soil
Preparing the soil perfectly is another important part of commercial sweet potato farming business. You should prepare the land perfectly before starting plantation.
Plough the land 3-4 times before sowing to bring the soil to the fine tilth. And also remember, you must ensure the land is free from all types of weeds.
Climate Requirement For Sweet Potato Farming
Sweet potatoes generally grow well in warm tropical and subtropical frost free regions with ideal temperature of 21°C to 26°C.
The plants also require well and evenly distributed rainfall of 75 to 150 cm for optimum production. Heavy rainfall will damage the crop and does not allow proper growth as it aids in excessive vegetative tuber growth.
Best Time For Sweet Potato Cultivation
Spring is the best time for planting sweet potatoes.
Choose a Variety
There are numerous varieties/cultivars of sweet potatoes available to choose from. You can choose any variety depending on it’s availability in your area.
Sweet Potato Propagation
Sweet potatoes are propagated through tubers clips or vine cuttings.
Tuber clips and vine cuttings are easily available in the market. You can easily purchase them.
Seeds Per Acre
If you choose vine cutting method, then you will require about 25,000 to 30,000 vines for cultivating one acre of land.
Sweet potato vine cuttings should be planted during June to July for rainfed conditions. But planting can be done during October to November under irrigated conditions.
Make the ridges of 25 to 30 cm height at 60 cm apart after giving couple of ploughings in the main field. Vine cuttings with the length of 20 cm to 30 cm should be buried horizontally with 2 to 3 nodes below the soil by leaving the remaining portion of the cutting above the soil.
Sweet potato plants grow vigorously and they generally don’t require much caring. Although, taking additional care will help the plants to grow better and produce more.
Add as much organic content as you can while preparing the soil, and this will fulfill most of the demand of the plant. Try to add at least 10 tons of organic fertilizers (preferably farm yard manure) per acre for better results.
Also apply some chemical fertilizers for better production. Apply fertilizer dose in terms of CAN at the rate of125 kg per acre, SSP at the rate of155 kg per acre and MOP at the rate of 35 kg per acre.
Irrigation is given once in 2 days for period of 10 days after planting. And thereafter, irrigation is given once in 7-8 days. Stop irrigation 3 weeks before harvesting. But one light irrigation 2 days before harvesting will help you to easy the harvesting process.
Mulching helps to retain moisture into the soil, and at the same time it will help to prevent weed growth. You can use organic materials for using as mulch.
Weeds consume most of the nutrients from the soil. Apply Metribuzine 70WP at the rate of 200 grams per acre or Alachlor at the rate of 2 ltr per acre before sprouts emergence.
On 5-10% sprout emergence and ridge are infested with weeds then only apply Paraquat at the rate of 500-750ml per acre.
Pests & Diseases
Like many other commercial crops, sweet potato crops are also susceptible to some common pests and diseases. Here we are trying to describe more about the common pests and diseases of the sweet potato plants.
Diseases & Their Control
Black scurf, common scab and early blight are the common diseases of the sweet potato crop. Black colored speck observed on tubers in the black scurf affected potatoes. Planting disease free tubers will help to reduce the risk of this disease.
Common scab disease is spread rapidly in low moisture condition. Light brown to dark brown lesion are appeared on infected tubers. Apply well rotten cow dung and use disease free seeds for planting. Follow crop rotation and avoid mono cropping in same field. Before sowing, treat seeds with Emisan 6 at the rate of 0.25% (2.5gm/Ltr of water) for five minutes.
Necrotic spots on the lower leaves are the common symptoms of early blight disease. This disease spread rapid in high moisture and low temperature. Take spray of Mancozeb at the rate of 30gm or Copper oxychloride at the rate of 30gm/10Ltr water at 45 days 2-3 times at 10 days interval if infestation is observed.
Pests & Their Control
Aphid, tuber moth and sweet potato weevils are the common pests of the sweet potato crop. Sweet potato weevils damage the plant by feeding themselves on the epidermis of vines and leaves. Spray of 200 ml Rogor at the rate of 150 liter water per acre to control this pests.
Cut the foliage according region timing, to check infestation of Aphid. If Infestation of Aphid and Jassid observed take spray of Imidacloprid at the rate of 50ml or Thiamethoxam at the rate of 40gm/acre/150Ltr water.
Tuber moth make tunnel in potato and feeds on flesh. Use only healthy and disease free seeds/cuttings for planting. Spray of Carbaryl at the rate of 400 grams per 100 liter of water if infestation is observed.
Sweet potato crops generally mature and become ready for harvesting 120 days after planting. Harvesting is mainly done when tubers get mature and the leaves turn yellow. Harvesting of sweet potato is generally done by digging tubers.
Post Harvesting Tasks
Post harvesting tasks include cleaning, grading etc.
It’s very tough to tell the exact amount, because it depends on numerous factors. But on an average, you can expect 10 tons sweet potatoes per acre.
Marketing sweet potatoes is very easy and simple. Sweet potato is a very common and popular vegetable in the market and it has very good demand. You will probably be able to sell your products easily in the market. Although, we recommend determining your marketing strategies before starting this business.
These are the common steps and ways for staring and operating a successful sweet potato farming business. Hope this guide has helped you! Good luck & may God bless you!
Best Sweet Potato Farming Tips
Here are some tips to help you successfully grow sweet potatoes:
- Choose the right location: Sweet potatoes require a warm and sunny location with well-drained soil. Avoid areas prone to flooding or where water accumulates.
- Prepare the soil: Sweet potatoes prefer loose, well-draining soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. Work in compost or well-rotted manure to improve soil fertility and structure.
- Start with healthy seed potatoes: Choose seed potatoes that are free of disease and have no visible signs of damage or rot. Store seed potatoes in a cool, dry place until planting.
- Plant at the right time: Sweet potatoes are typically planted in the spring after the danger of frost has passed. Plant slips (young plants) or cuttings at a depth of 3-4 inches and space them 12-18 inches apart in rows 3-4 feet apart.
- Water regularly: Sweet potatoes require consistent moisture throughout the growing season, especially during the first few weeks after planting. Water deeply and frequently, but avoid overwatering, which can lead to rot and disease.
- Control weeds: Sweet potatoes can be choked out by weeds, so it’s important to keep the area around your plants free of weeds. Hand-pull weeds or use a hoe to cultivate the soil around your plants.
- Fertilize appropriately: Sweet potatoes require adequate nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for healthy growth. Work in a balanced fertilizer or apply a side dressing of compost or well-rotted manure during the growing season.
- Monitor for pests and disease: Sweet potatoes can be affected by pests such as sweet potato weevils, spider mites, and whiteflies, as well as diseases such as fusarium wilt and sweet potato scurf. Monitor your plants regularly and address any pest or disease issues promptly.
- Harvest at the right time: Sweet potatoes are typically ready for harvest 100-120 days after planting, depending on the variety. Harvest sweet potatoes when the leaves begin to yellow and die back, and the skins are firm and dry. Be careful not to damage the sweet potatoes during harvest, as this can lead to spoilage.
- Cure sweet potatoes: After harvest, sweet potatoes should be cured for 7-10 days in a warm (80-85°F) and humid (85-90%) environment. Curing helps to toughen the skin and improve the flavor and texture of the sweet potatoes.
- Store sweet potatoes properly: Sweet potatoes should be stored in a cool, dry place with good ventilation. Avoid storing them in areas prone to temperature fluctuations or high humidity, which can lead to rot and spoilage.