MISSISSIPPI STATE -- High prices to growers and large volumes of fish processed through October combined to make 1995 a winning year for Mississippi's catfish industry.
The 1995 estimated value of farm production for Mississippi catfish is $301 million, up $21 million from last year. Catfish rose a notch in the state rankings this year, pushing ahead of soybeans, which dropped $61 million.
Catfish now ranks fourth on the state's top commodities list behind forestry, poultry and cotton, respectively.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Tobacco budworms didn't just take a bite out of cotton bolls, they joined the drought-like conditions to take a bite out of cotton growers' bank accounts.
"Growers not only harvested less cotton in 1995, but it was also one of the state's most expensive cotton crops ever," said Dr. Will McCarty, extension cotton specialist at Mississippi State University. "These two factors -- a smaller crop and higher costs -- are pushing a significant number of growers to the brink of financial disaster."
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi Christmas tree growers welcome this year's crop with anticipation for a happy holiday season.
"Overall the crop looks great in spite of the drought," said Dr. Steve Dicke, extension forestry specialist in Raymond. "A few growers experienced some disease problems, but the outcome of the crop in general is outstanding."
Last year 220,000 Mississippi-grown trees were sold for about $5.2 million.
"Growers expect sales to be as good or better than last year," Dicke said.
STARKVILLE -- Still reeling from the February 1994 ice storm, Mississippi's pecans struggled through drought conditions this summer and may end up yielding only about 40 percent of the state's crop potential.
Dr. Freddie Rasberry, extension horticulture specialist at Mississippi State University, said alternate bearing years are common in pecan production. Trees may yield 25 percent of their crop one year, 75 percent the next, then back down the next.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippians looking for state-grown pumpkins for Halloween jack o'lanterns or Thanksgiving pies will find shorter supplies and higher prices this year.
Consumers can expect pumpkins to wear a price tag ranging from 50 cents to $1 higher than last year. Due to short supplies of state-grown pumpkins, many of the pumpkins available locally have been shipped into Mississippi from southern Canada and the high plains of Texas.
STARKVILLE -- Cotton, rice and soybean growers have seen their August dreams turn into October nightmares as yield estimates have plunged in the wake of insects, heat and drought.
"In total economic impact, the state will not see about $900 million that cotton, rice and soybeans had the potential of making when the crops were evaluated in July," said DeWitt Caillavet, extension agricultural economist at Mississippi State University.
STARKVILLE -- Late season cotton yield estimates have plummeted as drought and insect damage effects become apparent.
From the original yield estimate on Aug. 1 to the recently released Oct. 1 figures, Mississippi's harvest estimate has dropped 660,000 bales -- for a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars to the state's economy.
STARKVILLE -- Hurricane Opal's unwelcome rains showed Mississippi's crops more mercy than Alabama's, but a delay in harvest is anything but good news for farmers struggling to put 1995 behind them.
The late-season hurricane dropped relatively small amounts of rain on the Mississippi Delta and from 2 to 3 inches on the eastern side of the state. Unfortunately, any rain at this point in the season provides only negative effects on the harvest-ready crops.
STARKVILLE -- With harvest in full swing, Mississippi's peanut crop is faring well despite this year's dry growing season. Although growers will not enjoy 1994's high peanut yields and quality, both disease and insect pressure have been light this year.
"This has been an off year for a lot of crops, but peanut yields are fairly good," said Dr. Alan Blaine, extension agronomist at Mississippi State University. "This is particularly true in the north Delta, considering how long it has been dry."
STARKVILLE -- Growers are hoping for more rainfall to aid harvest of Mississippi's 6,000 acres of sweetpotatoes.
Acreage is up about 20 percent for 1995, due to good prices and expanding markets for Mississippi's sweetpotatoes.
"Our sweetpotatoes are high quality, and are competing well in the marketplace," said Benny Graves, plant pathologist with the Mississippi Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Plant Industry in Starkville.
STARKVILLE -- Cotton yields will not be what many growers dreamed of when they increased Mississippi's crop by 100,000 acres to take advantage of stronger prices. Higher than normal insect pressure and excessive heat have taken their toll.
"Preliminary yields do not look good," said Dr. Will McCarty, extension cotton specialist at Mississippi State University.
The Sept. 1 crop report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture brought bleak news on the expectations for Mississippi's crop.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Hot, dry conditions that have burned up yards and pastures cannot do much more damage to Mississippi's row crops. Any rains arriving at this point will have little impact on the crops' development and may hurt harvest quality.
Dr. Erick Larson, extension agronomist at Mississippi State University, said corn may be the one bright spot for this year's dim harvest outlook. Recent weather conditions have helped the corn dry appropriately for harvest.
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.