MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The cold weather of the winter months can cause anxiety about the costs of keeping warm, but simple efforts to maintain a home can cut down on heating expenses.
Dr. Frances Graham, extension housing specialist at Mississippi State University, said up to 33 percent of heat in homes is lost through uninsulated ceilings.
"Proper insulation is a key factor for minimizing heating bills during the winter. Insulation is important in the attic, next to the interior ceiling in the room, and in walls and floors," Graham said.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Pecan growers are harvesting their best crop in three years this fall, but the yield is still only a fraction of what the state can produce.
With 50 percent of the harvest complete, growers expect to harvest 2.5 million pounds from Mississippi's 12,000 to 14,000 acres of pecan orchards.
Dr. Freddie Rasberry, Mississippi State University's extension horticulturist, said that is well more than double last year's yield of 1 million pounds, but well below the average of 5 million to 8 million pounds of pecans a year.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi Christmas trees have thrived under unusually good growing conditions this year, and the trees are ready to be harvested by spirited holiday enthusiasts.
Dr. Stephen Dicke, extension forestry specialist in Raymond, said Mississippi's trees have weathered well this year and are looking good. Growers are facing only a few problems, such as needlecast, in some areas of the state.
Starkville grower Jeffrey Krans said needlecast is a disease that causes needles to fall out and affects tree density.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's cotton growers haven't closed their books on the 1996 crop, but insects clearly will not be the negative factors they were last year.
Many growers' books went in the red during 1995's tobacco budworm invasion prompting Mississippi growers to plant about 28 percent fewer cotton acres in 1996.
Dr. Blake Layton, extension entomologist at Mississippi State University, said insect costs in the state's hill area will be about half the 1995 levels. Delta growers may be looking at two-thirds of last year's control costs.
STARKVILLE -- Despite an ideal growing season, most of Mississippi's traditional pumpkin producers will not be marketing their crop in 1996. The reduction doesn't stem from virus problems this year, but viruses in past years.
Dr. David Nagel, extension horticulturist at Mississippi State University, said growers have reduced the state's crop about 100 acres annually for the last several years. Most of this year's 375 acres are in smaller, noncommercial fields.
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.