STONEVILLE -- As Mississippi's rice growers begin harvest, few expect to reap last year's record breaking yields. This summer's sizzling temperatures have reduced quality as well as yields in some cases.
"This year's rice yields are certainly nothing to write home about," said Dr. Ted Miller, extension rice specialist in Stoneville. "In the rice that has been harvested, some grains are not as plump as they could be -- one effect of the recent hot temperatures."
Miller said rice growers are averaging about 126 bushels per acre.
STARKVILLE -- Don't let the name fool you, tobacco budworms love cotton. Extremely high numbers have invaded Mississippi's hill section fields at levels that defy control efforts -- seriously lessening yield potential.
Tobacco budworms are the primary pest cotton farmers must control. They feed on cotton squares and bolls (usually less than 20 days old) resulting in those bolls shedding from the plants.
These pests do not damage the leaves, so plants appear healthy at first glance.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Corn yields may not reach the record levels of 1994, but most growers are optimistic despite dry conditions in parts of the state.
Little damage was reported from the initial storms related to Hurricane Erin as its remnants swept into Mississippi.
Dr. Dennis Reginelli, Noxubee County agent, said a wind storm the week before Erin caused some growers to harvest fields a week earlier than they might have otherwise. Most growers in Mississippi will begin harvesting in a couple of weeks.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Wheat prices are reaching the highest levels in 10 years. Unfortunately, a small 1995 harvest means few growers will enjoy the financial fruits of their labor.
DeWitt Caillavet, extension agricultural economist at Mississippi State University, said wheat prices have been in the high $4 range in recent weeks. September futures reached life-of- contract highs on July 17 of more than $4.60 per bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade. At some of the smaller exchanges (Kansas City and Minneapolis), wheat traded over the $5 per bushel level.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Usually when a crop is showing as much promise as this year's rice crop, prices trend lower. However, with state and national rice plantings down in 1995, growers are seeing higher prices at the market.
DeWitt Caillavet, extension economist at Mississippi State University, said in addition to fewer acres, the market is benefitting from a weaker world crop and continued strong demand. Several major rice exporting countries will be importing rice this year due to production problems resulting in lower yields.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Watermelon growers are licking their lips over the high prices melons are selling for during the busiest consumer week of the season. Unfortunately, a shortage of seeds for planting reduced acreage and has decreased harvest supplies.
Dr. David Nagel, extension horticulturist at Mississippi State University, said watermelon acreage is down from 9,600 acres in 1994 to about 8,500 this year statewide.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- As estimated national corn acreage and yields continue to drop, Mississippi growers have a chance to lock in a good price for their crop. The deciding factor for 1995 corn yields and prices to growers will be the weather, which caused the current decline in estimated acreage and yields.
Dr. Tom Jones, extension agricultural economist at Mississippi State University, said December corn futures have closed as high as $2.92 per bushel in recent weeks.
VICKSBURG -- Gambling on the river has a different meaning to farmers with thousands of crop acres under water for the fourth time in five years. Spring planters optimistically thought, "What are the odds?" Now they know -- 100 percent.
The Mississippi River peaked in Vicksburg at 47 feet on June 12 -- 4 feet above flood stage -- its highest level in 12 years.
The 1995 flood is topping 1994 levels by 1 foot and almost six weeks later than last year's crest date.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Depressed cattle prices are having a similar effect on producers. As prices reach their lowest levels since January 1987, most market watchers expect little relief until the national herd size starts decreasing around 1997.
Dr. Charlie Forrest, extension agricultural economist at Mississippi State University, said prices for the best 400 to 500 pound steers averaged in the low $70s per hundredweight during May. May 1995 prices are about 20 percent below year-ago figures.
VERONA, Miss. -- Spring rains have given all Mississippi farmers a challenge to overcome. But untimely rains causing a poor quality crop could mean a loss of profits for growers and costly supplements for livestock owners next winter.
Timing is important in hay production -- from fertilizing before moderate rainfall to cutting when the crop is mature to harvesting before rains reduce nutrients.
Dr. Pat Bagley, head of the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Verona, said rains are making the first cutting of hay a challenge.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Rains and cool temperatures have delayed plantings for some Mississippi crops. Soybean growers, who have turned to earlier planting in recent years, may not have the luxury to take full advantage of this opportunity if conditions continue.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Planting season is well underway, and Mississippi's weather conditions in 1995 have been among the best in recent years.
"The best thing this year is that the river hasn't been the problem it was in the last couple of years," said Don Bales, Wilkinson County agent. "The bottomland (near the river) is in good shape except for some cotton acres that had to be replanted after a heavy rain around April 11."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- An untimely freeze in leading wheat-producing states and ideal weather in Mississippi are encouraging signs for the state's wheat growers.
Recent rains provided about 1 to 3 inches of rain to help the wheat crop toward harvest near June 1. With little to zero disease problems thus far, growers will watch extra closely after the rains and hope for drying conditions.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Economists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced their crop predictions Friday in the planting intentions report, but Mother Nature and farmers will get the final word.
Dr. Alan Blaine, extension agronomist at Mississippi State University, said although there were no major surprises in the acreage estimates, actual plantings will hinge on the weather.
"Weather always influences crop acreages. Delayed plantings because of rain will force farmers to second choice crops with later planting dates," Blaine said.