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.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Though heavy rains this spring delayed some of the state's rice planting, warm, sunny days in June and July helped the crop along, and by late Aug., Mississippi farmers were pleased with the results.
Optimal planting for rice is before May 1, and 75 percent of the state’s crop made it in by that date. The remainder was late because of excessive rains during the first few weeks of May.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi’s small cotton crop was looking good by late August, but with prices below break-even levels, producers will hold their breath until harvests are in.
John Michael Riley, Extension agricultural economist, said cotton harvest cash prices in Mississippi in mid-August were about 53-55 cents a pound. MSU crop budget estimators indicate the “average Mississippi producer” needs prices above 62 cents a pound to be in the black in 2009.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Catfish pond acreage in Mississippi continues to decline, with the high cost of production and poor prices partly to blame.
Jim Steeby, aquaculture specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the entire U.S. catfish industry is downsizing. As of late July, Mississippi had 70,000 acres of catfish ponds, down from the high of 113,000 acres the state had in 2001.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Three weeks of cool, rainy weather in July were just what the state’s soybeans needed, breathing new life into the struggling crop.
Trey Koger, soybean specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said weather extremes have affected the crop. Cold, wet spring weather delayed a lot of planting. Most of June was hot and dry and most of July was wet and cooler.