In Mississippi, sweet potato slips are grown in greenhouses to increase the production of virus-tested and true-to-type sweet potato material in accordance with certification standards set forth by the Mississippi Crop Improvement Association (see these standards at www.mcia.msstate.edu). Since 1999, the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station’s Pontotoc Ridge-Flatwoods Branch Experiment Station near Pontotoc has provided this service. Due to increased demand for virus-tested sweet potato material, there is an interest among producers to grow their own virus-tested material in greenhouses. However, producing sweet potato slips in greenhouses can be expensive and very labor-intensive, so it is important to conduct an economic analysis before jumping into this venture.
The demand for virus-tested slips depends on the number of acres dedicated to sweet potato production in the region and the relative proportion of acreage planted to virus-tested slips. The production of greenhouse-grown, virus-tested slips is one step in the production of certified seed roots. Producers should first determine the demand for seed roots, either for their own farming enterprise or to sell to other producers. The estimated demand for seed roots can be used to determine how many greenhouse-grown slips are needed using the following equation:
Desired # of 20-bu bins × 73 = # of greenhouse slips required
This equation assumes that an estimated 73 greenhouse-grown slips are required to produce one (20-bushel) bin of seed roots based on the following conditions:
- 13,068 slips are required to plant 1 acre with 40 inches between rows and 12 inches between plants.
- After greenhouse-grown slips are established, 10 field cut slips can be taken from each plant.
- Yield = 18 (20-bushel) bins of seed roots per acre.
The next step is to estimate the costs associated with producing greenhouse-grown sweet potato slips. This publication estimates these costs based on a 30-by-96-foot greenhouse and a production goal of 60,000 slips. Budget estimates reflect average capital and operating expenses. You may experience different production costs and demands from those assumed in the budget; therefore, customize the budget to reflect your particular situation.