Feature Story from 1997
By Bonnie Coblentz
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Keeping a good, productive pond is a constant battle against natural processes that keep habitats in an ever-changing state.
"All ponds and lakes are born to die," said Dr. Marty Brunson, Mississippi State University extension wildlife and fisheries specialist. "If given enough time without intervention, they fill up with silt, become shallow, then turn into a bog, marsh and finally dry land."
But the process can be postponed indefinitely.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Last winter's mild temperatures not only were easy on Mississippi people, but the state's insects as well.
The lack of a sustained deep freeze, together with the warm, relatively dry spring has resulted in favorable breeding and growing conditions for many insect pests.
Dr. James Jarratt, Mississippi State University extension entomologist, said typical Mississippi winters don't do widespread harm to insect populations.
VERONA -- If Old MacDonald had a pizza farm, he'd grow more than pigs and cows. More than 800 third graders recently learned the many sources of pizza products -- from the box to the herbs.
Today's children have fewer opportunities to see animals and crops growing on farms and so are less aware of the sources of many products.
The Mississippi State University Extension Service organized the Pizza Farm Field Days at the Lee County Agri-Center in Verona to educate children on the importance of farmers and agriculture to produce kid's all-time favorite food -- pizza.
By Allison Powe
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Southerners are accustomed to warm weather, so when spring arrives, many people are eager to replace sweaters and coats with short sleeves and swimsuits.
Stephanie Wayne, extension apparel and textile clothing assistant at Mississippi State University, reminds Mississippians to store winter clothes properly to ensure that they maintain good quality and are ready to wear when the next fall arrives.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A cool April and May have kept water temperatures low and slowed growth among the state's catfish.
Water temperatures recently have been well below 70 degrees, and by mid-May had only reached 67 to 72 degrees. Optimum temperatures for catfish growth is 80 to 85 degrees.
James Steeby, district extension agent for aquaculture in Belzoni, said cold water temperatures slow catfishes' eating and delay spawning. As cold-blooded creatures, water temperatures regulate catfish appetites, and they don't eat well when they are cold.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi strawberry acres are few, but even an average yield provides the state with at least a $250,000 crop.
Strawberry season closed near the end of May in the southern part of the state, but cool temperatures kept the season open into early June farther north. South Mississippi has most of the state's 25 to 35 acres of strawberry farms.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Several Mississippi farmers have made smart management changes and increased their average yields by more than 14 bushels an acre.
At $7 a bushel, that increases income by almost $100 an acre. If half of the state's 2 million soybean acres saw this increase, soybean income would rise about $100 million annually.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Whether hunting for turkey or a better way to manage forestland, a project underway at Mississippi State University can help.
The Mississippi Gap Analysis Program is collecting data to provide a complete picture of the state's natural resources. The program will provide a wealth of information on how to better manage Mississippi's natural resources.
By Allison Powe
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Students experience information overload, but educators at Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine are teaching professionals a new method to prepare students for jobs that demand current information.
After having employed problem-based learning to help students learn material better and prepare them for evolving careers, professors at MSU's veterinary college are giving tips to other institutions that want to design their own PBL programs.
By Allison Powe
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Homeowners must face continuous efforts to keep their houses in good condition, and when animal invasions occur, people struggle to win a battle against nature.
Mississippi residents often face small intruders, such as mice, wanting to share their homes, but other unwelcome guests may also become home invaders.
"Squirrels, raccoons, bats and birds will occasionally come into homes that have unsecured vents, chimneys or other small openings," said Phil Mastrangelo, state director of Animal Damage Control.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Many Mississippi farmers are witnessing too much of a good thing.
Moisture is an important ingredient in establishing a new crop, but rains in the last weeks of May have left many crops struggling to develop uniform stands.
Larry Oldham, extension soil specialist at Mississippi State University, said most fields need drier conditions and warmer weather.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Sixty years after the first June Dairy Month, Mississippians are still enjoying the product, but substantially fewer farmers continue in the business.
"Just in the last five years, Mississippi has lost about 40 dairy herds annually," said Dr. Reuben Moore, extension dairy specialist at Mississippi State University. "It's a matter of profitability. These dairies would not be closing if the financial incentive was there. Someone would take over the operation."
By Allison Powe
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Many Mississippians don't see the forests for the pines. Pine trees are not the state's only timber resource, just the most noticeable.
As Mississippians drive along state highways and see acre after acre of planted pines, some wonder if the state is losing its hardwoods. However, the majority of trees growing in Mississippi are oaks, hickories and other hardwoods.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- One gardener's trash can become his treasure in a matter of weeks.
The piles of weeds, clippings and leaves often discarded can instead be naturally recycled. A well-tended compost pile quickly changes mounds of organic matter into rich soil additives.
Dr. David Nagel, Mississippi State University extension horticulturist, said compost is the result of microorganisms processing organic waste.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Erosion is more than an unsightly nuisance because if left unattended, it can wash away vast amounts of soil.
Larry Oldham, extension soil specialist at Mississippi State University, said erosion is simply soil being moved by water or wind. Some degree of erosion occurs nearly everywhere.
"Anytime you scratch up the surface of the soil, you're going to have the potential for erosion if you don't put some type of cover over it," Oldham said.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Cool, rainy days have delayed cotton growth, but not boll weevils. Cotton's No. 1 enemy is emerging from overwintering and searching for cotton squares.
"Even though boll weevil numbers are high, I'm not as concerned about them as I am about the crop as a whole," said Mike Williams, extension entomologist at Mississippi State University. "The insects don't even want the cotton at this point."
Spring conditions have delayed the cotton's growth by at least two weeks in most areas of the state.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's corn is battling for decent yields as cool, wet weather hampers growth and triggers common rust disease throughout much of the state.
"Corn is in its critical pollination period which is the most sensitive time for any stresses," said Dr. Erick Larson, extension corn specialist at Mississippi State University. "The weather conditions since Memorial weekend have caused an unusually heavy outbreak of common rust in corn fields."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Experienced farmers know the importance of lime, but this is the first year growers could select from two grades depending on their price range and success expectations.
Larry Oldham, extension soils specialist at Mississippi State University, said acid soils limit production of every crop in Mississippi. These soils require lime to neutralize the soil acidity for maximum economic productions.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Hectic schedules often make people wish they could be in more than one place at a time, but technology available through Mississippi State University can make this possible.
Through video teleconferencing, university specialists can present a program once and have it sent via satellite to hundreds of sites around the state. Without leaving their community, audience members can see and ask questions of the speaker, often hundreds of miles away.
By Allison Powe
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Peaceful walks and relaxing fishing trips can be ruined with just one wrong step in a mound of hundreds of stinging fire ants.
Mississippi, as well as several other states in the Southeast, is home to this pest that infests lawns, pastures, gardens and occasionally houses. Fire ants are a nuisance, but there are some strategies for controlling the tiny beast.
Dr. James Jarratt, extension entomology specialist at Mississippi State University, said landowners can choose from a variety of control methods.