By Dr. Rebekah Ray
Delta Research and Extension Center
STONEVILLE -- Dry conditions have allowed Mississippi rice producers to plant earlier this year than in previous years.
Nathan Buehring, rice specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said an absence of heavy spring rains put the state’s producers well ahead of schedule. About 80 to 85 percent of the state’s rice was planted by mid-April.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Crop rotation benefits and market prices remain the driving forces behind farmers’ planting decisions.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s prospective plantings report, released March 30, forecasts 4.67 million acres planted in nine Mississippi crops, an increase of 3 percent from total acreage in 2011.
John Michael Riley, agricultural economist with Mississippi State University’s Extension Service, said farmers probably are making their decisions to plant or not to plant soybeans and corn based on rotational needs.
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A winter that quit before it got started challenged the state’s wheat crop, resulting in a below-average crop as it enters the homestretch.
Erick Larson, grain crops agronomist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said warm winter temperatures pushed the crop’s development ahead of schedule. Harvest could begin a few weeks early, in mid-May.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Freshness is the key to quality Christmas trees, and with choose-and-cut Christmas tree farms scattered across the state, all Mississippians can get a great tree every year.
John Kushla, forestry specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service at the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Verona, said locally grown trees can look great for weeks when they are put in water immediately.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Timely rains in early September made a smooth harvest for Mississippi peanuts, a crop that is in high demand due to drought in other peanut-growing areas.
As of Oct. 1, the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast 2011 crop yields at 3,600 pounds per acre for Mississippi, the highest prediction for any of the peanut-producing states. Harvest began in mid-September and was 70 percent complete by mid-October. Producers were working as fast as they could to get the crop out of the ground after cold temperatures ended peanut maturity.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Catfish producers who are coping with record-high feed costs know that the strong market prices may not last much longer.
Jimmy Avery, aquaculture leader with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said years of pond acreage reductions are driving fish prices up. Unfortunately, the cost of producers’ biggest expense, feed, is also setting record highs. The end result could challenge consumers to afford this U.S. farm-raised product.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Mississippi pumpkin producers have their work cut out for them growing their colorful crop in the heat of summer so pumpkins are ready for Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations.
David Nagel, a horticulturist with Mississippi State University’s Extension Service, said producers must plant and grow the crop at the toughest time of the year so it can be harvested in a narrow window of opportunity.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – The state’s sweet potato crop appeared to be doomed before it started, but a late soaking allowed this hardy crop to yield average harvests after a tough year.
Bill Burdine, area agronomic specialist in Chickasaw County with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said quality may be slightly above average for this crop, which started a little behind schedule.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Tropical Storm Lee brought rain across the state Labor Day weekend with mixed results -- mostly good -- for the state’s soybean crop.
Rain that weekend ranged from a few hundredths of an inch in northwest Mississippi to as many as 10 inches in some soybean-growing areas. Whether it brought much-needed moisture to dry fields at an ideal time or halted harvest depended on when the crop was planted.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Tropical Storm Lee brought much-needed rains to Mississippi’s parched fields and pastures but minimal flood and wind damage.
Late-season tropical storms can be costly, even devastating, when winds and pounding rains may whip plants and complicate harvests. When Lee swept through the state over Labor Day weekend, most of Mississippi’s crops either had been harvested or needed one last rain before harvest.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – The yield of early-planted rice looks good so far, but only time will tell how seriously the high heat of early August will cut into yields from later-planted fields.
Nathan Buehring, rice specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said harvest began in mid-August and will proceed at full speed until completed, probably by the first week of October.
“Those who have a good feel for yield have been pleased with what they’re harvesting so far,” Buehring said. “It won’t be a bumper year, but we should be average.”
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Increased consumer interest is positively impacting producers of Mississippi’s truck crops, which include fruits, vegetables, nuts and flowers.
Rick Snyder, vegetable specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the rapid growth of the local foods movement has increased demand for truck crops.
“With farmers’ markets in nearly every county of Mississippi, producers no longer have to travel far to find an outlet for their produce,” Snyder said. “Some growers sell at two, three or more markets each week.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – As summer heat rolls through Mississippi, poultry growers must keep a watchful eye on their cooling equipment yet begin planning for winter.
“The biggest issues growers face are heat in the summer and cold in the winter,” said Danny Thornton, MSU Extension poultry specialist. “Good management practices are the main strategies for dealing with the weather, from maintaining fans and blowers to making sure back-up generators are ready at all times.”
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi could join Texas, Oklahoma and other southeastern states in widespread shortages of hay and forages if dry conditions continue.
Rocky Lemus, forage and grazing systems specialist with Mississippi State University’s Extension Service, said Mississippi cattle producers are seeing about 50 percent losses of pasture and hay production.
“The southwestern part of the state is very dry. Spotty showers have provided some relief, but much more rain is needed statewide,” Lemus said.