Feature Story from 2000
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Sociologists see a disappearing middle in many areas of American life, and agriculture is no exception.
Joe Molnar, professor of rural sociology at Auburn University, said large farms are getting larger and more small farms are springing up while mid-size farms are declining. His findings were released in "Agriculture in transition: Food and fiber livelihoods in an industrialized context," a publication of the Southern Rural Development Center at Mississippi State University.
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 -- When the Mississippi Legislature passed a law last year requiring high schoolers be taught money management, Mississippi State University's Extension Service stepped in to help make this happen.
The High School Financial Planning Program in Mississippi was offered to school districts to help them comply with a law passed in 1999. This law requires all public school districts to teach personal finances courses. MSU's Extension Service is providing the training for the teachers who will present this material.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Universities in five southern states are joining forces to offer a national Internet based radio network for agricultural, food, human and natural resource information.
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 -- When a family member dies or a couple divorces, the dog may be the last thing on anyone's mind, but the event can be life-shattering to this member of the family.
Dr. John Harkness, animal behaviorist at Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, said separation anxiety can be a big problem with dogs as they bond so closely with humans.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Dirty litter boxes and hairballs probably top most cat owners' lists as the most distasteful parts of having a cat.
Most cat owners know to watch their step when they hear the hacking of their cat, but many don't know that hairballs can be life-threatening, not just a nuisance.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- In many Mississippi homes, pets are more than animals; they're part of the family.
About 47 percent of Mississippi's households own pets, according to a 1997 survey by Mississippi State University's Social Science Research Center. The survey, sponsored by the Mississippi Veterinary Medical Association, found that 39 percent of the homes had dogs and 22 percent owned cats.
While these loving creatures provide companionship and enjoyment for their owners, the owners have a responsibility to provide essential care for the pet's health and happiness.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- "Walk up," "stand," "lie down" and "that'll do." Simple phrases spoken softly by one person and the working dog herds a group of animals like an expert.
In fact, sometimes the dog is the expert, but often the real brain at work is the experienced handler communicating directions to a canine companion.
Leroy Boyd, professor of animal and dairy science at Mississippi State University, has trained border collies since 1978 and helped trained handlers as well.
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.
By Suzanne Berry
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The overpopulation of domestic cats gone wild can cause health problems for humans and their pets, but with help from Mississippi State University's veterinary students, Tunica area residents can rest a little easier.
Non-sterilized domestic cats that have been abandoned by their owners produce wild offspring that likely never will have human contact. These wild offspring are referred to as feral cats.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi dairy and beef producers will benefit from efforts of Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station researchers attempting to synchronize ovulation in heifers to improve reproductive performance and increase profitability.
Methods are in place to synchronize estrous, or heat, but not to control ovulation, or release of the egg. Ovulation typically occurs 24 to 48 hours after a cow comes into heat.
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 -- Better eggs mean better broilers, a fact that prompted one Mississippi State University researcher to look at what a hen must eat to lay these good eggs.
Mississippi's $1.5 billion poultry industry is the state's largest agricultural commodity. When even a small improvement is made in this business, the result is seen in millions of dollars.
By Rebekah Ray
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Historically plagued by Mother Nature and the whims of consumer demand, today's agricultural producers have more opportunities to receive advice on managing their risks and producing a profitable crop.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Grass, something Mississippi's climate is well-suited for growing, has become a serious cash crop to turf producers taking advantage of booming population centers.
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.
By Suzanne Berry
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Milk. It does a body good, especially a dairy calf's body.
Recently completed research at the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station's Coastal Plain Branch in Newton has shown that immunity levels of newborn dairy calves that were tube-fed colostrum at birth were higher than those that nursed their mothers.
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.