PRAIRIE -- Squirrels and woollyworms aren't the only ones preparing for winter. Cooler temperatures signal the conclusion of hay harvesting and of planting time for winter grasses for Mississippi's cattle.
Although beef prices could be and have been worse, many cattle producers plan to feed their herds until spring, when better prices are more likely.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Another month closer to closing the books on the 1996 crops and farmers are starting to breathe easier.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released the Sept. 1 crop production forecast which yielded few significant changes from the August report. The similarity in the two reports was a pleasant change from last year, when a late drought and insects sent yield estimates plummeting.
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi's corn harvest is yielding both feast and famine conditions as harvests range from 40 to 200 bushels per acre. After a drought-plagued summer, much of the yield differences can be explained by one word -- irrigation.
Dr. Erick Larson, extension agronomist at Mississippi State University, said most dryland (or non-irrigated) corn yields are between 40 and 120 bushels per acre, depending on the luck of summer showers. Yields on irrigated fields are running between 110 and 200 bushels.
STONEVILLE -- September's rice harvest promises to give Mississippi growers something to celebrate -- high yields -- during national rice month.
Dr. Ted Miller, agronomist at the Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, said this year's crop will rival the record yields of 1994 when Mississippi averaged 5,900 pounds per acre. Rice harvesting began the middle of August and will finish the last couple of weeks of September.
STARKVILLE -- Cotton farmers can testify to what a difference a year makes. As favorable growing conditions continue, growers prepare for the final hurdle -- harvest.
At this time last year, growers were watching yield potential plunged until the final state harvest was 650,000 bales fewer than the Aug. 1 crop forecast. Tobacco budworms and an excessively hot August condemned the 1995 crop.
STARKVILLE -- Although farmers continue to be at the mercy of unforeseeable conditions, a recent report released on the eve of harvest season is painting an optimistic picture.
The Mississippi Agricultural Statistics Service's Aug. 1 crop production forecast is predicting larger state crops in soybeans, hay, and corn and sorghum for grain. With the exception of grain corn, yields per acre are expected to be higher in all major crops including cotton and rice.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Caught between a rock and a hard place might best describe how Mississippi dairy producers are feeling this year. With the skyrocketing price of corn and low beef prices being offered for cull dairy cows, dairymen are facing a choice between paying higher feed prices or retiring and selling off their herds.
Dr. Tom Jones, extension agricultural economist at Mississippi State University, said last year's small corn crop is cutting into some dairy producers' profits and possibly forcing others out of business.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Supplies of fresh Mississippi-grown watermelons, a traditional July Fourth treat, were lower than normal this year as uncooperative weather early in the growing season pushed harvest dates back.
A late spring freeze caused many of Mississippi's watermelon producers to harvest closer than normal to the Fourth of July with some fields missing the holiday demand altogether.
For the best prices, growers aim for harvest to begin around the middle of June and climaxing before July 4.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Most Mississippi wheat growers are cashing in on near-record wheat yields after pricing most of their crop when the markets were at record highs.
Growers have been harvesting wheat hastily between summer showers. The Mississippi Agricultural Statistics Service reported 70 percent of the wheat crop harvested by June 16. Many growers will complete harvesting within a week of that date and some will begin planting soybeans in those fields.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Although June is officially dairy month, the dairy industry is an important part of Mississippi's economy all year long. Mississippi's dairy industry generated an estimated $320 million in economic activity last year.
Dr. Reuben Moore, extension dairy specialist, at Mississippi State University, said total milk production in the state last year was 83 million gallons.
RAYMOND -- Outdoor activities in the summer increase the risk of exposure to poison ivy, but the plant's danger does not disappear with the hot temperatures.
Thriving on Mississippi's hot, humid climate, poison ivy is very common in the state and causes discomfort for 80 to 85 percent of the population.
Norman Winter, extension horticulture specialist in Raymond, said poison ivy and poison oak have similar three-leaf patterns and should not be confused with the five-leaf Virginia creeper. Poison oak is the least common of the plants and rarely found in the state.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Summer vacation is supposed to be a time for children to take a break from school and have a little fun. But as many parents know, summer usually ends up being a time of boredom for kids.
Dr. Louise Davis, extension child and family development specialist at Mississippi State University, said there are many fun educational activities for children, to make summer a memorable time.
POPLARVILLE -- As harvest proceeds, some blueberry growers are finding a few more survivors than they had expected after an early March freeze sent temperatures plummeting into the teens for several nights.
Mississippi has about 1,700 acres of blueberries, but only about 900 acres -- primarily south of Hattiesburg -- will yield fruit this year.