Stevia being explored as crop in Southeast

In Southeast Farm Press

As it stands now, there are still many questions on producing stevia in the Southeast with less than 300  acres currently planted to the crop in North Carolina. But there is a commitment and a definite interest in making stevia a viable cash crop across the Southeast.

North Carolina State University is firmly dedicated to expanding stevia production with a team of researchers working on the economics of growing stevia to varietal development to weed and disease control and more.

A multi-state collaborative research and extension effort has been established to do work in stevia with funding coming from a recently announced specialty crop research initiative from USDA. The four-year collaborative program includes N.C. State, Michigan State University, University of South Alabama and Fort Valley State University in Georgia. Moreover, the Golden Leaf Fund, Tobacco Trust Fund and the North Carolina Biotechnology Center have all committed support to expanding stevia acreage in North Carolina.

David Shew, a professor of plant pathology at N.C. State who is instrumental in the efforts to expand stevia production across the Southeast, says this support and the collaborative four-year study are vital for developing best management practices for producing stevia and providing the answers growers need.

“We began our research work in 2011 with the goal of exposing growers to stevia as a possible alternative crop, particularly in eastern North Carolina,” Shew explains. “As we began the research we had far more questions than answers. Seven years later, there are still a lot of questions but we now have many answers in terms of weed and disease control, varietal development and other agronomic practices.”

Read more in Southeast Farm Press.

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