News Filed Under Crops
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Knowing what the weather will be like is about the only variable keeping Mississippi State University researchers from being able to predict some cotton and soybean yields.
Dr. Harry Hodges, crop physiology and production specialist with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, said computer programs have been developed to simulate crop growth. The goal is to know how plants will respond to environmental variables.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A new rice variety soon to be in commercial production is giving indications it may be a strong contender for the state's most popular variety.
Priscilla was released in 1997 by Dr. Dwight Kanter, agronomist with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. The new rice variety started in the early 1980s by an Arkansas researcher as a cross between three existing varieties.
"In early tests, Priscilla was one of the highest yielding semi-dwarfs that we observed," Kanter said.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Crop insurance is on sale for farmers in Mississippi at nearly a 30 percent discount, but growers have to act quickly to take advantage of this reduction.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced $400 million in disaster relief to subsidize buy-up crop insurance premiums. Buy-up insurance provides the highest levels of coverage at an increased cost to farmers. The relief money reduces coverage cost, but must be bought by Feb. 28. Other emergency financial assistance is available for areas that had multiple year losses or single year disasters.
By Rebekah Ray
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Aflatoxin takes its toll on Mississippi corn production, but two scientists at Mississippi State University have recently released a weapon to fight the fungus.
U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service plant geneticist Paul Williams and plant pathologist Gary L. Windham developed the germplasm Mp715 that was released by the USDA-ARS and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi cotton growers chose to plant fewer acres in 1998 knowing the world market offered little promise. The hot, dry summer prevented a repeat of 1997's record yields, but growers still managed to harvest near the five-year average.
Dr. John Robinson, agricultural economist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, predicted the 1998 farm-gate value of Mississippi's cotton will be about $541 million, down 16 percent from the previous year. Cotton felt a triple whammy from reduced acres, smaller yields and lower prices.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A program aimed at improving soybean yields in Mississippi helped farmers produce 1998 soybean yields that, despite the drought, averaged 45 bushels an acre, 20 more than the state average.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Numerous Mississippi farmers are planting vegetation buffer strips between crop land and waterways to improve water quality and fight erosion.
Dr. Larry Oldham, soil specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said buffer strips are narrow strips of grass or trees between crop land and surface waters that slow the water coming off crop land.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The success of this year's peanut crop depended at harvest on how far away it was from Hurricane Georges, but all areas suffered from drought in the growing season.
Joe Morgan, owner of M&M Farms in Forrest County, said overall yields on his 1,090 acres of peanuts were about the lowest he has ever gotten. His 8-year average yield is 3,334 pounds an acre. This year he averaged 3,013 on irrigated land and less than 2,000 pounds on non-irrigated land.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Holiday cooks may want to shop early while prices and supplies last for locally grown pecans.
"The 1998 crop could be the lowest crop in growers' memories," said Dr. Freddie Rasberry, horticulturist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "The few pecans that were set early on were lost to drought stress and the hurricane."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The success of the 1998 pumpkin crop depended on the availability of August rains or irrigation. For most growers, this wasn't their year.
Pumpkins grow best in dry and warm (but not hot) conditions, said Dr. David Nagel, Extension horticulturist at Mississippi State University.
"They are drought tolerant, but not that tolerant. They aren't desert plants," Nagel said. "Two of the state's pumpkin growers who irrigate had a great year, but the rest of the growers were lucky if they had an average year."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Many state producers will remember 1998 as a farming disaster as low market prices compounded yield losses from heat, drought and hurricane.
Corn and soybeans took the biggest hit as low yields matched lower prices. Production value for both fell 32 percent from 1997 even though acreage this year was higher than last.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Most cotton and soybean farmers relaxed as Hurricane Georges hung a hard right after landfall, but for Southeast Mississippi growers, the results were devastating.
Dr. Alan Blaine, agronomist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said growers across the state with fields almost ready for harvest were working around the clock to avoid the predicted heavy winds and rain.
By Amy Woolfolk
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- When Hurricane Georges blasted through coastal Mississippi last week, the pecan crop took a beating, but nurseries escaped with light to moderate damage.
Extension agricultural agents in some southern counties described significant damage to pecans and trees.
John Wesley, Stone County Extension agent, called this year's pecan harvest in his county a complete loss. The crop was only about three weeks from harvest.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Like other Mississippi crops, the sweetpotato crop is reaching the end of a long, hard row, but its tropical nature has prevented catastropic results.
Chickasaw County agent Charlie Fitts said the majority of sweetpotatoes are the Beauregard variety, which has been one of the most successful varieties in recent years.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi soybean growers are going into harvest hoping to survive a year of bad yields made worse by bad prices.
Early in the growing season, high temperatures and drought were the crop's worst enemies. Non-irrigated and early maturing Group IV soybeans were hardest hit. As harvest neared, prices fell, compounding the disastrous effects of low yields.
Yields have averaged 25 to 27 bushels an acre, compared to 1997's average of 31 bushels. Prices are currently about $5.30 per bushel, rather than a normal price of $6.80.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- High levels of aflatoxin have devastated much Mississippi corn, and while producers will want to salvage something from the crop, feeding it to wildlife is not a good option.
Dean Stewart, wildlife specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said low levels of aflatoxin, a toxic chemical byproduct of grain mold, can kill some birds, while larger animals can tolerate much more.
"Don't put aflatoxin corn out for the deer even though it probably won't kill them, because it can kill smaller animals that get into it," Stewart said.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- High nighttime temperatures have left farmers concerned about yields, but they won't have long to wait as harvest has already started in some areas.
Dr. Joe Street, rice specialist with Mississippi State University's Delta Research and Extension Center, said the 1998 rice crop looks pretty good.
"It was hot and dry this summer and we're not yet sure what the high nighttime temperatures will do to yield," Street said. "We're in the wait-and-see mode."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's cotton was on the road to success in early July until weather stress, insects and diseases forced the crop to take a detour.
Dr. Will McCarty, cotton specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said the August crops are a far cry from the fields a month earlier.
"I don't know if I've ever seen a crop develop this fast and then back up just as fast," McCarty said. "We had the motherload of crops until hot, dry weather, insects and diseases took their toll."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- As if the drought wasn't hard enough on this year's corn crop, growers now prepare for harvest with the threat of yield-reducing corn borers and a drought-related fungus.
Dr. Scott D. Stewart, assistant Extension entomology specialist in Raymond, said most of Mississippi's crop has damage from corn borers, especially in the Delta counties.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Recent, unseasonal rains are just what the doctor ordered --the plant doctor, that is.
Most of the state received several inches of rain the second week of July, ending drought-like conditions that were taking their toll on nonirrigated crops. Corn was one of the hardest hit by the lack of rain at a critical growth stage, followed by cotton, soybeans and pastures that were suffering.
Dr. David Shaw, Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station weed scientist, said most farmers received more than the proverbial million dollar rain.