MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Dripping wet with perspiration, battling biting insects and reaching through itchy plants: Most gardeners don't endure these conditions for money; they do it for love.
Dr. David Nagel, extension horticulturist at Mississippi State University, said the priority for most gardeners is quality, not saving or making money. This love of quality, fresh produce inspires many Mississippians to the labor-intensive task of growing their own fruits and vegetables or at least seeking out a farmer's market.
STARKVILLE -- So far so good. Cotton growers are "cautiously optimistic" that this year will not bring weather and insect traumas reminiscent of 1995.
A cold, boll weevil killing winter, budworm resistant cotton and a decent planting season are some of the positive factors going for this year's crop. But bad memories of 1995's insect battles and hopes for cashing in on corn and soybean's high prices in 1996 are driving many growers away from cotton.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- As summer weather quickly approaches, the soaring temperatures are causing growing concerns for Mississippians trying to stay cool and prevent rising utility bills. Applying a few basic techniques can help better prepare homes for the hot weather.
Dr. Frances Graham, extension housing specialist at Mississippi State University, said there are four basic ways to keep homes cool.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Summer is usually a time for fun and relaxation. And, many people tend to spend their days and nights outside. However, spending a lot of time in the great outdoors can be rough on the skin.
Linda Patterson, extension health and safety specialist at Mississippi State University, said during the summer months people become more vulnerable to skin problems.
"These can range from dry skin, poison ivy and rashes to sunburn and infections," she said. "Most of these skin problems are aggravated by things that happen outdoors."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Severe freezes in February robbed Mississippi yards of most of their spring color. Even as temperatures warm, grasses are showing the extent of the damage.
"Extension county agents are being bombarded by questions about replanting lawns damaged by the harsh, late winter freezes," said Dr. David Nagel, extension horticulturist at Mississippi State University.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi wheat growers will be among an elite group of farmers who will be able to enjoy record high prices. While the yield prospects are dim for the nation's leading wheat producing states, Mississippi's crop looks promising.
Wheat futures have reached the historic $7 per bushel level -- more than 60 percent higher than year-ago prices. Stocks are among the lowest ever and demand continues to be strong.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Recent April showers may bring later May plantings for much of Mississippi's soybean crop. Heavy rains have muddied efforts to get the state's soybean crop in the ground, but sunny days are giving growers hope for a timely-planted crop.
Mississippi's soybean crop planting is about 15 percent complete.
In the southern and northern parts of the state, rainfall was not as widespread, but central Mississippi received heavy, flooding rains.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- State farmers are hopeful that last winter's freezing weather helped give crop insect pests the cold shoulder for the 1996 growing season.
Mississippi State University entomologists are expressing "cautious optimism" on whether the low temperatures and prolonged wet winter had any effect on the insects that damage Mississippi crops each year.
Dr. Blake Layton, cotton entomology specialist at MSU, said Mississippi farmers may be in for a pleasant surprise this growing season because of the dipping mercury.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The cows may be mad in England, but in the United States, it's the cattlemen with reasons to be angry.
Dr. Charlie Forrest, extension agricultural economist at Mississippi State University, said fed cattle prices are down $6 to $8 per hundredweight from this time last year. Calf prices are down about $25 per hundredweight.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- As spring cleaning gets into full swing, many Mississippians must decide what to do with boxes of discarded clothes -- plan a yard sale or find a second-hand clothing shop.
"Garage sales are a way of getting rid of things you no longer want, need or use," said Dr. Beverly Howell, extension family economics and management specialist at Mississippi State University. "They are also an excellent way of making extra cash, meeting new faces and just having fun."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi soybean and cotton farmers should find it easier to decide what seed variety to plant these days, not by trial and error, but by accessing the Internet through their home computers.
The Mississippi soybean variety trials, conducted by the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, yield information ranging from how to select a seed variety for your field to the actual planting procedures. Any farmer in the world with a computer and Internet access can download the information from the World Wide Web.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- This year's planting intentions report yielded few surprises as producers based many acreage decisions on market prices.
Economists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced their 1996 crop predictions March 29. The biggest change for Mississippi is corn acreage, rising from 300,000 acres in '95 to 550,000 acres for 1996 -- an 83 percent increase.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippians have more than a billion reasons for celebrating Arbor Day on Feb. 9. Forestry is more than an asset to the state's environment; it's an asset to Mississippi's economy.
"Timber has been an important asset to Mississippi's economy, but in the last two years our forests generated more than a billion dollars in harvest value," said Dr. Bob Daniels, extension forestry specialist at Mississippi State University.
Mississippians begin celebrating tree planting week on Arbor Day, Feb. 9.