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.
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.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Effective first aid depends not only on the availability of supplies but also the knowledge of how to properly treat injuries.
Linda Patterson, extension health education specialist at Mississippi State University, said a first-aid kit should include basic, easy-to-purchase items to save someone's life or minimize injury or illness.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Americans are living longer, and with the population of the older generation increasing, many people can expect to face the responsibility and privilege of caring for their aging parents.
Dr. Ann Jarratt, extension specialist at Mississippi State University, said this step of role-reversal can be difficult for many children and parents. Many times problems can arise if the decision is not thoroughly thought out.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Recent skyrocketing temperatures and dry weather have let Mississippians know the dog days of summer are here to stay. Unfortunately, hot weather isn't just a nuisance; without the proper precautions it can be life-threatening for people, pets and plants.
Linda Patterson, extension health specialist at Mississippi State University, said the high temperatures and humidity stress the body's ability to cool itself, making heat illness a special concern.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Most Mississippians have forgotten the bitter cold days of winter as temperatures continue to climb. But bare trees, bushes and vines will long remind fruit growers of the early March freeze that gripped the state.
Dr. Freddie Rasberry, extension fruit and nut specialist at Mississippi State University, said the state's fruit crops suffered major losses from the freeze.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The dry weather that allowed some state farmers to finish early season planting has outworn its welcome, stopping planting and hindering growth in many fields. Soil moisture conditions are short to very short across most of the state, and gusty winds in areas of the Delta have further depleted soil moisture.
"We are dry, and a little dry weather early on doesn't hurt, but it is becoming an extended situation and we need a rain pretty badly," said Dr. Alan Blaine, extension agronomist at Mississippi State University.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Dripping wet with perspiration, battling biting insects and reaching through itchy plants: Most gardeners don't endure these conditions for money; they do it for love.
Dr. David Nagel, extension horticulturist at Mississippi State University, said the priority for most gardeners is quality, not saving or making money. This love of quality, fresh produce inspires many Mississippians to the labor-intensive task of growing their own fruits and vegetables or at least seeking out a farmer's market.
STARKVILLE -- So far so good. Cotton growers are "cautiously optimistic" that this year will not bring weather and insect traumas reminiscent of 1995.
A cold, boll weevil killing winter, budworm resistant cotton and a decent planting season are some of the positive factors going for this year's crop. But bad memories of 1995's insect battles and hopes for cashing in on corn and soybean's high prices in 1996 are driving many growers away from cotton.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Severe freezes in February robbed Mississippi yards of most of their spring color. Even as temperatures warm, grasses are showing the extent of the damage.
"Extension county agents are being bombarded by questions about replanting lawns damaged by the harsh, late winter freezes," said Dr. David Nagel, extension horticulturist at Mississippi State University.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- As summer weather quickly approaches, the soaring temperatures are causing growing concerns for Mississippians trying to stay cool and prevent rising utility bills. Applying a few basic techniques can help better prepare homes for the hot weather.
Dr. Frances Graham, extension housing specialist at Mississippi State University, said there are four basic ways to keep homes cool.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Summer is usually a time for fun and relaxation. And, many people tend to spend their days and nights outside. However, spending a lot of time in the great outdoors can be rough on the skin.
Linda Patterson, extension health and safety specialist at Mississippi State University, said during the summer months people become more vulnerable to skin problems.
"These can range from dry skin, poison ivy and rashes to sunburn and infections," she said. "Most of these skin problems are aggravated by things that happen outdoors."
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi wheat growers will be among an elite group of farmers who will be able to enjoy record high prices. While the yield prospects are dim for the nation's leading wheat producing states, Mississippi's crop looks promising.
Wheat futures have reached the historic $7 per bushel level -- more than 60 percent higher than year-ago prices. Stocks are among the lowest ever and demand continues to be strong.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Recent April showers may bring later May plantings for much of Mississippi's soybean crop. Heavy rains have muddied efforts to get the state's soybean crop in the ground, but sunny days are giving growers hope for a timely-planted crop.
Mississippi's soybean crop planting is about 15 percent complete.
In the southern and northern parts of the state, rainfall was not as widespread, but central Mississippi received heavy, flooding rains.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- State farmers are hopeful that last winter's freezing weather helped give crop insect pests the cold shoulder for the 1996 growing season.
Mississippi State University entomologists are expressing "cautious optimism" on whether the low temperatures and prolonged wet winter had any effect on the insects that damage Mississippi crops each year.
Dr. Blake Layton, cotton entomology specialist at MSU, said Mississippi farmers may be in for a pleasant surprise this growing season because of the dipping mercury.