MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Nationally, wheat growers are harvesting a strong crop, but Mississippi rains prevented state growers from producing a repeat of last year's record high.
Dr. Tom Jones, extension agricultural economist at Mississippi State University, said Mississippi's total production is about 1/3 less than what was produced in 1996.
Last year, Mississippi produced an average of 48 bushels per acre on about 230,000 acres. This year, production dropped substantially to about 39 bushels per acre on 200,000 acres throughout Mississippi.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Back-to-school expenses can knock the wind out of some families' bank accounts, but delaying some purchases can help soften the blow.
School supplies, clothes and fees can add up to staggering levels if families try to address all back-to-school needs in August, according to Dr. Beverly R. Howell, extension family economics and management specialist at Mississippi State University.
"Clothing is probably the biggest of the back-to-school expenses," Howell said. "Clothing is also one of the easiest expenses to spread out during the school year."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Weather has been a constant challenge for Mississippi's cotton growers.
Rain delayed most of the crop's planting time two to three weeks. Next, continued rains and cool weather slowed initial growth. Fields in Northeast Mississippi have suffered the most.
"We're looking at the good, the bad and the being destroyed," said Dr. Will McCarty, extension cotton specialist at Mississippi State University. "Most poorly drained fields have drowned out. Whenever farmers can get in those fields, they will likely replant in soybeans, if possible."
BILOXI -- Mississippi shrimpers are enjoying the benefits of higher prices and a 1997 harvest coming in two waves.
Dave Burrage, extension marine resources specialist in Biloxi, said opening shrimp landings should be similar to June 1996 landings of 2.6 million pounds of tails-only shrimp. Comparable figures for this year are not yet available.
However, Biloxi, which has 80 percent of the state's processing capability, landed 749,500 pounds of heads-on shrimp the first week of the season. In 1996, shrimpers landed 624,100 pounds in Biloxi the first week.
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.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- When some parents think of vacations with kids, they get an instant headache as pictures pop in their minds of crowded cars, unending "are we there yet?" questions and cranky children.
Dr. Louise Davis, Mississippi State University extension child and family development specialist, said traveling with children can be restful and fun for everyone. It just takes some preparation.
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.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Grilled meats, potato salad and meringue pies are typical summer foods served at cookouts and picnics, but these goodies can reach the danger zone when not handled properly.
Dr. Melissa Mixon, extension nutrition specialist at Mississippi State University, said cooking out and having picnics are fun ways to enjoy the summer, but outside conditions make cautious food handling extra important.
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 -- 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 -- 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.