MISSISSIPPI STATE -- With the excitement of drivers at a NASCAR start, farmers are ready to begin the 2011 growing season.
The first fields out of the starting gate are corn fields.
Erick Larson, small grains specialist with Mississippi State University’s Extension Service, said growers were approaching the halfway point in planting this year’s corn crop by the end of March. They should complete planting by the end of April.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – A drier-than-normal winter has put this year’s winter wheat crop in good shape as it heads into the heavy growth stages of spring.
Erick Larson, grain agronomist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the state has about 300,000 acres of wheat. This figure is up from the meager 125,000 acres harvested in 2010, but down from the recent high of 520,000 acres planted in 2008.
VERONA -- With less than a month to go, Mississippi’s Christmas tree growers are counting down the days to what may shape up as a great year.
The trees mature enough for sale have good color and have filled out nicely, despite periods of dry weather statewide and too much rain in some areas of the state. Most species of Christmas trees grown in Mississippi take five years to mature, which makes one-fifth of a grower’s crop marketable each year if new seedlings are planted after the holiday season.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Although Mississippi pecan growers’ hopes for high yields were dashed by lack of rain, they still anticipate having a good crop to sell.
Pecans fill out between late August and the end of September. Timely rains are necessary for nutmeat to fully develop, but Mississippi did not get those rains this year, said David Ingram, plant pathologist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Halloween is surrounded by mystery, and one of the greatest mysteries to Mississippi farmers is why anyone would want to grow pumpkins.
David Nagel, vegetable specialist with Mississippi State University’s Extension Service, said pumpkins are hard to grow in Mississippi because of the late-summer weather, but farmers are eternal optimists.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Demand for Mississippi peanuts could be up because of season-long production problems in Georgia and Alabama.
“Peanut crops in the central areas of Georgia and Alabama are hurting,” said Malcolm Broome, executive director of the Mississippi Peanut Growers Association. “If our farmers can get the crop out, they may see some price improvement because of the anticipated decreases in supply.”
STONEVILLE – Early planting and higher-than-average temperatures have led to Mississippi’s earliest rice crop harvest to date.
Optimal planting for rice is before May 1, and favorable conditions allowed most of the state’s crop to make it in by that date. Then, hot summer temperatures accelerated the crop’s maturation process, allowing more than half of Mississippi’s rice to be harvested by early September.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Catfish farmers have until Sept. 23 to enroll in a recently approved governmental program to earn educational benefits and cash incentives.
Catfish farmers have struggled as the cost of production, the national economy and competition from foreign products have each taken a toll, pushing Mississippi acreage to its lowest levels in 30 years. In an effort to help farmers continue producing quality fish and remain competitive in the world market, the U.S. Department of Agriculture certified a Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers program on June 25.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – The lingering recession continues to impact Mississippi’s turfgrass industry with total sod acreage down as a portion has been switched to row crop production until the economy improves.
Wayne Wells, Mississippi State University Extension Service turf specialist, said the state has about 4,500 acres of turf and about 50 sod producers. The largest producers each have about 300 to 500 acres of turf production.
BILOXI – Shrimp landings may be way below average this season, but the quality of Gulf shrimp is still good.
Shrimping began on time when state waters opened on June 3. Because of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, partial closures were implemented beginning on June 8. By July 1, state waters had completely closed.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Record-breaking heat is forcing Mississippi producers to manage crops more carefully than normal to bring what looks like successful yields to harvest.
Temperatures in the Delta, which is home to the majority of the state’s row crops, have set as many as five record highs during the first week of August.
Nancy Lopez, a physical scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Stoneville, said some daily records from Greenville to Vicksburg were broken consecutively in August. July also was unusually hot across most of the state.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi forage producers are experiencing a major invasion of fall armyworms for the second consecutive year in pastures and hay fields across the state.
Blake Layton, a Mississippi State University Extension Service entomologist, said fall armyworm populations were unusually heavy last year with treatable populations reaching north Mississippi relatively early in the year and eventually extending into Tennessee. In 2010, the southern part of Mississippi needed treatments starting in early June.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Delayed planting and high summer heat have not kept Mississippi’s soybean crop from looking good as of mid-July, though fields ranged from just planted to nearly ready to harvest.
Trey Koger, soybean specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the crop was planted a little later than usual statewide, but many acres in northeast Mississippi were not planted until almost July.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Good growing conditions are contributing to a bumper crop of tasty watermelons for Mississippians.
David Nagel, a Mississippi State University Extension Service horticulturist, said rains and cool temperatures delayed plantings but warm temperatures later contributed to rapid development. Harvests began in mid-June and peak each year around the Fourth of July.
“We’ve had plenty of warm temperatures and sunshine to produce large and sweet watermelons this year,” Nagel said. “The more sunny days we have, the sweeter the melons.”