News Filed Under Crops
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Growers certainly would have liked better yields, but most of them know this year's growing conditions could have taken an even higher toll than they did.
"Corn yields are turning out pretty well in spite of the hot, dry conditions," said Erick Larson, corn specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "Most of the credit goes to early planting. It just depends on when the plants ran out of moisture."
Larson said many fields were able to get through the pollination stage by mid-June before Mother Nature turned against them.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- As if the drought isn't bad enough, Mississippi soybean farmers are now facing losses to several pests.
Pat Harris, entomology specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service in Decatur, said soybean fields have their normal populations of worms and stink bugs building up this fall in addition to the drought stress.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Insects and weather are usually willing accomplices in their attempt to rob cotton growers of maximum yields, but most pests this year have left the weather to do the bulk of the dirty work.
Blake Layton, cotton entomologist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said insect damage has been sporadic across the state but generally lighter than normal.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi State University is researching ways to make a new cultivation practice used by many Mississippi rice farmers more profitable.
About 50 percent of Mississippi's rice acreage is farmed using precision leveling and straight levees as farmers have moved away from the traditional levees that curve to follow the natural contour of the land. These new rice paddies follow a constant slope of the land, with straight levees cutting through the land at right angles to the slope of the field.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- What little rice was planted on Mississippi farms this spring is looking good at the halfway point in the growing season.
According to the Mississippi Agricultural Statistics Service, state farmers planted about 20 percent fewer rice acres, dropping the state total to about 260,000 acres, down from 323,000 acres harvested in 1999. Some rice experts expect that number to drop even further. Prices which were a low $5.25 in 1999 are even lower this year.
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
I used to consider myself a real outdoor cooker until the other day when my 10-year-old son James asked if that was the first time I had cooked chicken. Have I been too busy for a decade?
That night I was cooking one of my grill favorites, corn on the cob with the shuck still on. There may not be finer eating in the whole world than corn on the cob with that smoke flavor.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi farmers reeling from last year's low prices and often-poor yields are pinning their hopes on many crops not projected to perform much better in 2000.
With figures being finalized for 1999, agricultural economists show that most of the state's top crops declined in value last year. The traditional high dollar crops were the worst hit.
John Lee, head of agricultural economics at Mississippi State University, said 1999 was a tough year for farmers as typically average yields were sold for very low prices.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Projections for this year's corn crop depend on who you ask.
Widely scattered rains across the state mean some farmers are looking at great crops while others expect losses of 75 percent. Drought is the primary concern.
"The extent varies from severe to moderate, depending on the locale," said Erick Larson, corn specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. He added corn borers and common rust to the list of threats facing this year's harvest.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Most of the state's crops need more water, but vegetable producing counties in southeast Mississippi are among the driest.
"Even the vegetable crops with irrigation are struggling. The systems just aren't set up to meet this much demand," said David Nagel, horticulture specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service.
The horticulturist said most systems are set up to deliver about 1 inch of drip irrigation per week. Watermelons are in their highest water-demand period and need 2 ´ (two and one-half) inches per week.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi State University dedicated a miniature cotton gin in late May that will help both students and researchers in their study of cotton.
The fully-operational machine has clear plexiglass sides that allow viewers to watch the flow of cotton through the foot- wide gin. The cotton gin lacks a drier on the front and a press on the back to be like a commercial gin facility. It is housed in one room of the Pace Seed Lab.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Growers are just completing their part of the soybean planting process, and now it's Mother Nature's turn.
Tom Jones, agricultural economist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said the weather forecasts are making the soybean market more volatile than normal as predictions range from adequate moisture to severe drought conditions for this season.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Thrips are the only ones having a field day in Mississippi's cotton as the mild winter and dry, windy conditions have growers scouring their crops and the skies for relief.
Blake Layton, cotton entomologist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said thrips are more abundant than normal, but in numbers similar to last year.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Late freezes and a predicted light pecan crop are dampening prospects for Mississippi's fruit and nut growers, but growers haven't given up on the year.
Freddie Rasberry, horticulture specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said last year had the potential of being the state's best pecan year since the 1994 ice storm caused extensive damage to Delta orchards. Because pecans ordinarily are alternate bearing fruit, bumper crops are often followed the next year by much smaller harvests.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Handing over a portion of profits may seem like bad business, but Mississippi farmers use checkoff programs to promote success in the future.
Checkoff programs are a form of self-tax that require producers by law to set aside a certain portion from each unit sold. This money is collected by the governing board and distributed for industry research and promotion.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- What blueberries lack in size they make up for in their economic impact in Mississippi's economy.
Jerry Hutto, a blueberry grower in Waynesboro, said he believes there is more money in blueberries per acre than in any other crop. He estimated that there are 2,000 acres of commercial blueberries in Mississippi.
"In a good year, growers may average 7,000 to 8,000 pounds per acre. This year, we may produce 3,000 to 5,000 because of the late freeze," Hutto said. "Two good years in a five-year period will more than offset the bad years."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi rice acreage is following national trends and dropping as prices for the crop being planted do not look better than they did last year.
Some farmers got into the fields to begin planting the second week of April, but rain postponed most state rice planting until the third week. Joe Street, rice specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service and rice researcher with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, said the crop was about 25 percent planted by Good Friday.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's wheat crop headed into April with a bright outlook, but recent weather sent farmers to the fields looking for freeze and disease damage.
Erick Larson, wheat specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the dry winter was favorable to the state's wheat.
"Overall, the wheat crop has been in real good shape going into the spring," Larson said. "Recent rains caused some water- logged spots and killed some plants."
An early-April freeze damaged some wheat, but only time will tell how much.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Many Mississippi fields needed rain, but the early April deluge may have provided more long-term water for the streams and lakes than for farm soils.
Six to 8 inches of rain fell across much of the state the first few days of April, with some reports near 10 inches.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi farmers have looked to the sky, the markets and their pocketbooks to make planting decisions for a year that already promises to be a challenge.
Winter rains brought little relief from last year's late season drought, so farmers had a rare opportunity to begin planting corn earlier than normal this spring. Mississippi farmers planted about 55 percent of their corn with 40 percent emerging by the end of March, compared to the five-year average of 21 percent planted and 4 percent emerged.
By Rebekah Ray
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Horticulture, the green industry, is one of the fastest growing areas of agriculture and includes fresh-cut flowers and foliage, potted flowering and foliage plants, bedding plants, perennials, annuals and bulbs, shrubs, trees, cut Christmas trees, seeds and other propagative materials.