MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's wheat is emerging from the winter with the same potential as last year’s record yield, but many opportunities remain for Mother Nature to spoil the final outcome.
Although the weather at planting time was favorable, the profit potential for wheat was not. The result was a wheat acreage decline of about 50 percent from last year, when growers averaged 62 bushels per acre on 485,000 acres.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- State producers are harvesting the last of a large and generally good soybean crop after a scare from late summer rains that threatened to ruin most of the crop.
Trey Koger, soybean specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said about 95 percent of the state's soybeans were harvested by the end of October. The only beans remaining in the field were late-planted soybeans in the northern part of the state and along the river where spring floodwaters delayed planting.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Cotton farmers are trying just to put the season behind them after a year of struggling with the crop once called “king” in Mississippi.
Darrin Dodds, cotton specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said much of the state's crop looked good until early August, when tropical weather brought untimely rains to areas of the state.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Pumpkins do not grab the headlines as a significant crop, but they fill a niche for many Mississippi farmers who need to supplement cash flow.
“It's best to spread your effort out with several different enterprises because your farm is a business, after all,” said pumpkin producer Clay Meeks of Tippah County, who also grows soybeans and strawberries, and raises cattle. “It helps to have money coming in at different times of the year.”
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Sweet potato yields and quality appear to be favorable despite rains that have harvest season running seven to 10 days behind schedule.
Calhoun County Extension director Charles Fitts said growers in Mississippi's sweet potato heartland are looking for good weather to finish harvest by the first week in November.
“If rainy weather slows growers down too much, potatoes will be at risk of losing quality when the ground freezes,” Fitts said. “So whenever field conditions are good, growers are working as quickly as possible.”
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Corn farmers are finally completing harvest of what is possibly the state's second-highest average yield, but abundant rainfall caused delays, made harvest more difficult and hurt some grain quality.
Erick Larson, grain crops specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said repeated rains, relatively low temperatures and high humidity prevented corn from drying in the field as quickly as it should have.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – The spring freeze, summer drought and fall hurricane season of 2008 may have affected yield potential in many pecan orchards, but the industry watchers remain cautiously optimistic about the crop.
“Some of the trees have come back and are loading up pretty good with pecans,” said David Ingram, plant pathologist with the Mississippi State University Central Research and Extension Center in Raymond.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Repeated, drenching rains from storms Fay, Gustav and Ike brought Mississippi's cotton crop from an anticipated above-average yield to one that appears to be average or below.
“With cotton acres being down, we really needed to hit a home run this year to retain the acres we had and to keep all the gins and the cotton industry infrastructure,” said Darrin Dodds, cotton specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
He said the state's cotton crop as a whole looked above average by Aug. 1, but it didn't last.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's soybean crop is getting some “R and R,” but rather than producers having an easy time, their crop is battling seed rot and soybean rust.
Trey Koger, Mississippi State University soybean specialist at the Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, said about 5 percent of the state's soybean crop was harvested by mid-September. In an average year, the crop would be about 30 percent harvested by that point.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Rice production in Mississippi this year boils down to a tale of two different crops in the field.
Farmers typically start planting rice about April 1 of each year and conclude around May 15. This year, only 75 percent of the crop was in the ground when untimely rains came during the latter part of the planting window. The wet weather pushed rice planting well into June, which meant 25 percent of the crop suffered a late start.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Fuel, feed and packers have Mississippi pork producers over a barrel.
According to statistics from the National Pork Board, Mississippi's hog production numbers over the last seven years (2000-2006) averaged about 470,000 head, which includes market hogs, feeder pigs and sows. But from 2005 through 2007, the average was about 434,000 head. Production at the end of 2007 totaled 412,000 hogs valued at $63 million.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The volatile fuel market has caused nightmares for every farmer, but the problem is particularly vexing for sod producers who cannot escape the added cost of looking good.
Sod has to be trimmed and mowed at least twice a week to maintain good appearance and health before sale. Grass practically sells itself when it is luscious and in shape. But these frequent trips with the mower increase fuel use.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The mortgage crisis and high fuel costs are working against timber markets in 2008.
James Henderson, assistant forestry professor with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said prices for pine pulpwood were increasing early in the year, but higher fuel costs are pressing midyear prices downward, and pine sawtimber prices have been trending downward since the summer of 2007.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Challenged by rains throughout the planting season, Mississippi's soybeans now face make-or-break conditions as they await uniform showers to complete their growth and fill out beans.
“This crop is later than in recent years because early spring rains kept us from planting much of the crop as early as we would have liked,” said Trey Koger, soybean specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. “We are at a crossroads where we need a rain to keep most of this crop going in the right direction.”
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The price of shrimp is up this season, but so is the cost of getting Mississippi's shrimp harvest to market.
The Mississippi harvest began June 17, with early-season wholesale prices up from 10 cents to $2 a pound, depending on size, said David Burrage, professor of marine resources with the Mississippi State University Extension Service in Biloxi.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- April's cold snap may have slowed watermelon production in Mississippi, but growers are still in great shape to cash in on the Fourth of July.
David Nagel, horticulture specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the late spring frost damaged some transplants in the ground at the start of the season. Farmers worked hard to replant those fields and stay on schedule.
“We are seeing watermelons of good quality and size now that harvesting has begun,” Nagel said.