MISSISSIPPI STATE -- In spite of recent rains, the state’s sweet potato growers have a lot to be excited about this harvest season.
“Growers set the majority of the crop back in late May and June under ideal conditions,” said Stephen Meyers, sweet potato specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “We had good root set, which means the number of roots per plant has been good.”
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Mississippi swine producers are discovering the only constant in their industry is change.
John Michael Riley, agricultural economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said a variety of challenges have kept the state’s swine producers adjusting their strategies to avoid financial losses in recent decades. Just when producers adjust to overcome one hurdle, another one develops to drive prices down and the cost of production up.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – 2013 continues the trend of high feed prices, making it very challenging for Mississippi dairy farms to make a profit.
Lamar Adams, dairy specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said prices farmers are paid for their milk have been higher than in recent years, but feed prices have remained much higher than ever before.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi growers’ determination to plant corn last spring is paying off as harvests approach 2012’s record yields of 165 bushels per acre.
Persistent rains and low temperatures in the spring delayed planting, slowed emergence and contributed to less than desirable final stands. Cool weather through May also slowed corn growth and maturity by about two weeks throughout the season.
Jerry Singleton, area agent in Leflore County with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said he is almost afraid to say how good the yields appear to be.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- This year’s rainy spring kept grass from growing, but it also kept contractors from building, allowing Mississippi’s sod farmers to manage the season’s rough beginning.
Barry Stewart, turf management specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service and Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, said demand was low at a time that benefitted growers.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Mississippi’s cotton growers are hoping weather challenges don’t prevent their late-planted crop from making the good yields it seems capable of producing.
Darrin Dodds, state cotton specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the bulk of the crop was in pretty decent shape by late August.
“Some folks feel they are sitting on one of the better crops they’ve had,” he said. “All that will boil down to the weather we have in the fall. We need a long, favorable fall, and the heat to stick with us and the rain to stay away.”
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Rains are taking some feed-cost pressure off Mississippi cattle producers as the end of summer approaches.
Jane Parish, beef specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said summer droughts often reduce hay yields, and the resulting sparse grass in pastures can trigger hay feedings before the first frost hits. This year, rains across most of the state have had the opposite effect and kept grass abundant.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Forage producers and their livestock are not the only ones admiring the plentiful bermudagrass fields and pastures across the state this year.
Another invasive insect has arrived in Mississippi, this time to take a bite out of potentially strong hay yields. Stem maggots are joining the list of invasive species in the state that includes fire ants, fall armyworms, kudzu bugs, and once upon a time, boll weevils.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The spring’s planting challenges and last year’s Midwest drought boosted soybean prices for a while, but the winds of change are starting to blow.
Brian Williams, agricultural economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the soybean market had been strong until mid-July. The market typically drops before harvest, but he said prices dropped a bit faster this year.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Greater consumer demand for locally grown produce has made truck crops a bigger part of the state’s overall agricultural production and increased related research at Mississippi State University.
Truck crops get their name from the fact that they are often sold from the back of pickup trucks. They are produce crops, including blueberries, strawberries, sweet corn, beans, tomatoes, watermelon, greens and squash.
STONEVILLE – Like most Mississippi row-crops struggling to overcome last spring’s challenges, rice will be at the mercy of late-season weather to produce average yields.
Tim Walker, rice specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said rains kept farmers from timely plantings. After that, cool spring temperatures slowed growth, putting much of the rice crop about three weeks behind schedule.
Once the crop was established, a new problem emerged.
“The biggest challenge has been herbicide drift from other crops,” he said.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – If Mississippi’s corn growers thought planting season was a wild ride, they better fasten their seatbelts for harvest time.
Erick Larson, corn specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said wet fields and cooler temperatures last spring resulted in less-than-desirable corn stands, and these conditions often delayed or prevented growers from planting their intended corn acreage.
BILOXI – More than 250 boats launched on June 11 to open the shrimp season in Mississippi’s coastal waters.
A cold, wet spring delayed the season’s start, which opened June 1 last year.
“The things farmers hate -- drought and heat -- are great for shrimp production,” said Dave Burrage, commercial and recreational fisheries specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “The brown shrimp don’t grow as fast under the conditions we had this spring, but once it gets hot, they can go up a whole count size in a week.”
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Mississippians love Fourth of July watermelons, and the 2013 melon crop should be worth the wait after weather delays.
David Nagel, horticulturist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the biggest challenge has been the slow growth rate that caused some concern that the first melons might miss the holiday celebrations. The good news is that clear, sunny days with plenty of rain along the way have combined to produce large, tasty melons.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Producers are bringing in Mississippi’s amber waves of grain later than usual, but sunny weather has allowed them to make strong progress on the winter wheat harvest during the last two weeks.
Wet conditions that began in February and cooler-than-normal conditions in March, April and most of May delayed the crop’s maturity.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Late-spring cold snaps and untimely freezes have delayed harvests and reduced yields for Mississippi’s 2013 blueberry crop.
George Traicoff of Hernando runs a family owned and operated you-pick operation in DeSoto County. He started Nesbit Blueberry Plantation with 6,000 plants in 1984, and today his family tends 16,000 plants.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – A week of mostly ideal weather allowed Mississippi producers to more than double the acreage planted in cotton, but they remain behind schedule with this year’s crop.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated the cotton crop went from 36 to 77 percent planted in the week ending June 2, and many days were favorable since then. The state typically has 93 percent of its cotton acreage planted by this time, but the situation is not quite as bleak as it had been.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Many Mississippi farmers celebrated Memorial Day in their tractor seats as they took full advantage of about a week of good weather to make significant strides in planting.
A nearly unbroken string of rains kept farmers mostly out of the fields through the early-spring planting window. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s May 26 Crop Progress and Condition Report shows their efforts to catch up.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Evidence of a healthy national economy may be found in the strength of the timber industry.
Forestry is a billion-dollar industry in Mississippi and the state’s second-largest agricultural commodity. A depressed national economy in recent years had negative impacts on housing construction and furniture manufacturing, which hurt the forestry sector, but industry experts are seeing signs that a recovery is at hand.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Poor weather has created so many rain delays that most of the nation’s row crop planting is behind schedule, and Mississippi is even farther behind than other states.
“We’re a month behind,” said Ernie Flint, an area agronomist who has been with the Mississippi State University Extension Service for 22 years. “I’ve never seen anything that compares with this spring. I’ve seen the Delta planted late but never the whole state.”
Before he came to MSU in 1991, Flint spent 18 years as a crop consultant, so he spoke from a long perspective in agriculture.