MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Spring rains have been kind to most Mississippi farmers, and conditions are offering cotton one of its best starts in recent years.
Darrin Dodds, cotton specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said most of the state’s crop has been slightly ahead of schedule.
“The weather has not caused a significant amount of replanting, but there are always exceptions, and if you are one of those farmers, it is significant,” Dodds said. “We also have had some fields needing replanting because of herbicide damage.”
STONEVILLE -- The state’s catfish industry -- battling high feed costs, low prices and foreign competition -- is seeing many acres come out of production as producers fight to remain profitable.
In 2009, 15,000 acres of ponds went out of catfish production, and more are expected to leave production this year. Mississippi continues to lead the nation in catfish production and acreage, but the state’s current 65,000 acres is 43 percent short of its peak of 113,000 acres in 2002.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Mississippi peanut growers will finish planting on time and will fare better than last year as long as Mother Nature cooperates.
Peanut planting began the first week of May and is slated to wrap up by June 1.
“Planting is going well so far thanks to the moist soil,” said Mike Steede, Mississippi State University Extension Service director in George County. “We need the moisture for the seeds to germinate. The rain we got in the beginning of the month has created some optimal conditions for now.”
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Mississippi’s poultry industry is cautiously optimistic that the economic doldrums of the last two years -- brought on by the high costs of energy, feed and debt -- may finally be over.
Insider talk of expansion, new export markets and domestic consumption of eggs and breast meat may be indicators the upswing has begun.
STONEVILLE – Mississippi’s 2010 rice crop is ahead of schedule and looking good, even after strong storms swept through the state in April.
Nathan Buehring, rice specialist at Mississippi State University’s Delta Research and Extension Center, said growers had about 75 percent of the crop planted by the end of April. In the last two years, the majority of the planting took place well into May.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Having about half of the Mississippi soybean crop planted by late April is allowing producers to breathe a little easier when they look back on the disastrous year they had in 2009.
Trey Koger, soybean specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, urged producers not to make decisions for this year based on the anomalies of last year.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A cold winter may have delayed strawberry harvesting, but it did not affect the quality or taste of berries.
Mississippi strawberry harvest usually begins in mid-March, but this year, cold weather pushed harvest back to the second week in April.
“Temperatures were about 10 degrees lower than normal, which pushed planting back a week and in turn, delayed harvesting by a few weeks,” said Wayne Porter, Mississippi State University Extension Service agent in Lauderdale County.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Cotton will not be returning to the throne in Mississippi, but growers are slightly more enthusiastic about this former king than they have been in recent years.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its annual prospective plantings report March 31, and Mississippi producers are predicted to plant 340,000 acres of cotton. That is an increase of 11 percent from 2009 but is a far cry from the 1.2 million acres planted in 2005 and 2006.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi Christmas tree growers will probably see their sales increase again this year as more people stay home to celebrate the holidays.
Current economic problems have forced many people to tighten their budgets, resulting in less travel. Families who stay home still want a festive celebration, and natural Christmas trees offer a traditional touch.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Pecans are one Mississippi crop not taking a beating from excessive fall rains, but until the pecans are out of the orchard, the crop is not out of the woods.
Pecan growers are trying to harvest a better-than-average crop and take advantage of good early-season prices. Experts anticipate a more than 2-million-pound pecan harvest in the state. The national crop is expected to be about 300 million pounds, up 100 million pounds from last year.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Near-constant rains during harvest-time cost Mississippi farmers an estimated $371 million in losses, and producers with crop insurance may be the only ones able to salvage much more from the fields this year.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Harvest season rains have robbed soybean growers of strong yields and bean quality, reducing profits in an already challenging year.
“We were harvesting a beautiful crop with outstanding yields before the rains came the last two weeks of September,” said Trey Koger, soybean specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “Now that farmers are finally back in fields, we are seeing average yield losses of 5 percent to 10 percent.”
In addition to the yield losses, damage estimates average between 5 percent and 20 percent.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Nearly 80 percent of the state’s corn crop is safely in storage, and the remaining acres are ready for harvest but stuck in wet fields getting rain-drenched for days.
Erick Larson, grain crops agronomist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the corn harvest is largely complete in the southern part of the state, including the south Delta. However, the corn in the northern areas of the state was planted later and most remains in the fields.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi’s timber owners are keeping a close watch on the national housing market with hopes that the worst economic times are behind them.
“Recovery in the U.S. housing market is key to Mississippi’s sawtimber markets, and it appears that the beginnings of a recovery are emerging,” said James Henderson, forestry specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “Pending home sales and single-family construction have increased most months in 2009.”
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The weak economy and high costs of production have given poultry companies a strong incentive to curtail production in spite of increased prices.
Feed accounts for about 70 percent of the cost of broiler production. As feed prices have stayed high, production has lowered, reflecting a loss in revenue for the state’s growers.
““Compared to last year, fuel costs are down, but the general cost of doing business is making tight margins even tighter,” said Michael Kidd, head of Mississippi State University’s poultry science department.