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MSU launches challenge to aid students, farmers

The Mississippi State University Extension Service works in a variety of ways to support the sweet potato industry in the state, which ranks third in the U.S. in production. (Photo by MSU Ag Communications/Kat Lawrence) (Kat Lawrence)
The Mississippi State University Extension Service works in a variety of ways to support the sweet potato industry in the state, which ranks third in the U.S. in production. (Photo by MSU Ag Communications/Kat Lawrence) (Kat Lawrence)
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Updated: 1/13 4:56 pm
PITTSBORO, Miss. (WTVA) -- Mississippi State University announced the launch of a new program benefiting students and farmers at the Sweet Potato Council's annual meeting on January 10.

Gary Jackson, director of the MSU Extension Service, said the program known as the Sweet Potato Innovation Challenge aimed to create demand for all of the sweet potatoes in the state.

“The growers told us they needed additional products and markets to make use of their seconds and culls so that they don’t lose that revenue,” Jackson said. “This new program is going to provide research opportunities for students and give them the chance to work with scientists to solve problems.”

The university said students will work with farmers' requests to create prototypes for sweet potato products and will compete for prize money and intellectual property rights for the products they make.

Jamie Earp, incoming president of the Sweet Potato Council, said sweet potato products that could be adopted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s School Lunch Program would not only put the vitamin-packed vegetable in the meals of children across the country, but also would give sweet potato growers a reliable market.

“That would mean we’d never run out of places to sell our culls or No. 2s,” Earp said. “Every year is different. This year we’re still selling those potatoes to processors. But last year, the processing plants didn’t buy any culls past Thanksgiving, and we were throwing away a product that we could have sold for $40 to $60 a bin.”

Three teaching faculty have already agreed to participate in the challenge in the fall semester of 2014, bringing with them more than 120 MSU students who will also take part in the challenge.
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