The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS)-Sweet potato weevil program mission is to implement effective plant pest programs to keep NC free of sweet potato weevils (Cylas formicarius), the most destructive and damaging pest of sweet potatoes in the world and to facilitate the movement of NC sweet potatoes through certification programs. The success of this program largely depends on the early detection and rapid response to mitigate/eradicate a potential weevil infestation in the state. This is accomplished through an intensive state-wide survey of sweet potato fields, storage facilities and other establishment and operations that may represent a potential risk for the introduction of weevils in the state.
With a record production of 15.8 million cwt in 2014 and 72,000 acres of sweet potato planted, North Carolina continues to rank #1 in sweet potato production in the nation (2014 USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service). Sweet potatoes are grown primarily in the East along the NC coastal plains and in some counties in the Sandhills. In 2014, 92% of the reported sweet potato acreage was from 13 of the top sweet potato producing counties in NC including Nash, Johnston, Sampson, Edgecombe, Wilson, Greene, Harnett, Cumberland, Robeson, Pitt, Wayne, Lenoir and Duplin.
To keep NC and the sweet potato production areas sweet potato weevil-free, the NCDA&CS conducts surveys using insect traps baited with a male-specific sweet potato weevil pheromone lure in sweet potato fields (field surveys), storage and processing facilities, greenhouses and micro propagation facilities, research operations and in special settings including demonstration plots across the state. Sweet potato weevil surveys are also conducted in the NC SPW quarantine area in Brunswick and New Hanover counties. Another important component of the NCDA&CS sweet potato weevil program is the sweet potato weevil certification program whose primary goal is to facilitate the movement of NC sweet potatoes to other areas of the country by providing growers with services, including inspections and certification cards to certify their sweet potatoes are weevil-free and produced in weevil-free areas in NC.