Do Sweet potatoes need to pollinate to produce roots ( taters ) ?

namfonJune 18, 2009

I am growing sweet potatoes under row covers. Do I need to uncover at some point this summer to allow insect access or will they be fine under the row covers all season long ?

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ruthieg__tx(z8 TX)

Have you seen any blooms?

    Bookmark   June 18, 2009 at 7:53PM
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Sweet potatoes are a root crop, don't need any pollination. Some cultivars do bloom occasionally, but unless you are looking to breed a new cultivar, no need to worry about them.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2009 at 8:18PM
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I have a question. If I grow two types of Sweet potato will they cross pollinate and produce a different type. I would like to save some to make slips for the next year from what I grow this year, but have only grown one variety at a time before.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 2:04PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Cross pollination will only have an effect if you grow plants from the resulting seeds. I have no experience of sweet potatoes but I understand that the 'slips' are just shoots from a tuber. Therefore they cannot possibly be affected by pollination because they are vegetatively reproduced ie they are clones of their (single) parent.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 2:20PM
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The planting of slips or tubers to produce more tuberous roots is vegetative propagation.

Pollination is required (usually) to get fruit from flowers, like tomato, squash, bean pods, corn kernels, etc. This can be done by insects (usually) or in some cases by breeze as with corn and other grains.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 2:30PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

I keep mine row covered the entire season due to deer.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 6:50PM
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Thanks guys you are all awesome! This is what I was thinking but was talking with someone and they told me to only grow one veriety if I was going to save for next year. And of course it made me second guess myself. thanks for the fast replys.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 12:13AM
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My sweet potatoes last season bloomed with a lot of beautiful flowers white in purle colors. I was very happy with the bloom . BUT i was sad at the harvest time no sweet potatoes to speak of. I got two large ones from the whole 12 plant bed plus some skinny roots which gave my family few laughs. a friend of mine told me my mistake is I did not cut the blooming flower away. My sweet potatoe plants concentrated all its energy on making flowers and seeds and little energy went to make sweet potatoes at the roots. Is he right?

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 2:30AM
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Abe, I've never cut off sweet potato flowers and always had fine crops. A root-forming morning glory like sweet potato has energy to spare and shouldn't be affected by a few seeds. Try again, maybe it was a seasonal fluke?

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 8:40AM
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annew21 (zone 7b NC)(7b NC)

Abe, sweet potatoes need a long time to grow. You might have dug them too soon. Just a thought.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 8:50AM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

I read or was told (don't remember which) that long skinny roots are the result of allowing your vines to root in too many places and that you should lift your vines every week or so to make sure they send their sugars to only the original root area. Seems to have worked for me, I get roots that I would say are too large. Also, check for voles, they can tunnel among your roots and eat them down to nothing faster than you can blink. Though I think you would have found some gnawed bits if that were the case. Anyhow, not caused by the flowers.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 12:28PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

I find it unnecessary to keep the vines from sub rooting out on the vines. Sweetpotatoes have a lot of energy to make nice tators.

I have found that voles eat only a part of a tator and then move on to eat a part of another tator. An old raccoon tends to cleverly pick ears and eat them elsewhere [at least I had one like that]. Young raccoons seem to eat some on an ear and then move on to trash another ear.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 2:47PM
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Oddly enough, the voles do terrible things to my spring root crops but are nowhere to be seen when the sweet potatoes size up in late summer. I have to see a tooth mark on them.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2013 at 8:20AM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

My voles must be on the opposite schedule- no sign of them in spring, but sometime in September they more right in. Anyhow, I found out about keeping the vine from sub rooting when I got only long, stringy tubers like FoolishPleasure described. Maybe some cultivars are better than others that way.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2013 at 12:16PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

I doubt that the commercial growers are out there pulling vines up every couple weeks. I have grown many varieties over many years, and have sometimes had the problem of over size roots. Variety is usually the main reason for different sizing if other things are right.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2013 at 4:04PM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

According to the University of Maryland Extension sheet, you should "disturb the runners before they establish roots at the nodes. When rooting occurs, yeilds are reduced." Sounds to me like they do. It rerally isn't a big deal, you just sort of lift them along the length of the row a little bit, which I tend to do anyway to keep the vines from totally obscuring the pathways. The vines come up real easy.

Here is a link that might be useful: U of Md Fact Sheet Sweet Potatoes

    Bookmark   January 22, 2013 at 4:24PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

Commercial growers probably grow through machine put down black plastic swaths.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2013 at 8:34PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

I use plastic on some of mine. The vines grow well out beyond the plastic. Commercial growers have not always used plastic and maybe many don't today on sweetpotatoes.

This post was edited by wayne_5 on Tue, Jan 22, 13 at 22:19

    Bookmark   January 22, 2013 at 10:17PM
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I had 600 row feet of beauregards last year and when they were young, I ran through with a cultivator straddling the row/hill. I pulled a lot of vines with it and worried I'd lose too many, so I quit after a few weeks to let them grow. I had less weeds than the year before, but I had a ton of tubers. Best production I ever had. Lots of bakers. Lots of multi-meal bakers. Very few spindly fingerlings at all. Besides running through with the cultivator, the only other difference was that I added a lot of fresh horse manure in March before the slips went in the ground in May. I do not know if it was the cultivation or the manure, but I plan to do both again this year. I have bad pigweed and johnsongrass infestation later in the summer when the vines fill in and I can't get in to do anything about them. I figure I gave the sweets enough help early on that they were healthier before the onslaught of the jungle.

I wonder if your spacing is an issue. I space 18 to 24 inches apart. Just a good step sideways. wider spacing means larger tubers. Hill is about knee deep or so. Less once I shove in slips and firm the dirt around them. And less again once it rains on them and settles them. But still decent height and spacing.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2013 at 2:52PM
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Beauregards That is the variety I ordered for the coming season. The nursery recommendation is to space the plants 12 to 15 inches apart and the rows are spaced 3 feet apart. A friend of mine had a good result by amending the potatoes bed soil by 50% sand and Humus and chicken manure. Our soil is hard clay. I am going to follow his advice this season and see what will happen.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 3:09PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

I like O'Henry best. It is a light yellow and is a sport or mutant from Beauregard.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 5:49PM
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