STARKVILLE, Miss. -- If inquiries about new or expanded businesses are the heartbeat of Mississippi horticulture, then agricultural economist Alba Collart knows 2015 is a healthy year for the industry.
Collart, assistant professor of agricultural economics with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said horticultural crops are important to Mississippi’s agricultural economy. These specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts and products grown for environmental horticulture, also known as the green industry.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Erratic yields in Mississippi’s early-planted soybean crop reflect the extremes of temperature and rainfall farmers faced during the spring and summer of 2015.
“This season was one of extremes,” said Trent Irby, soybean specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “We went from cool, wet conditions in early spring to hot and dry during a critical point of the season, and that has taken a toll on yield for some of our acres.”
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- After causing significant challenges in 2014, sugarcane aphids did not catch Mississippi’s grain sorghum growers by surprise this year.
“We are not sure if sugarcane aphids were not as bad as last year or if we just did a better job using insecticidal seed treatments,” said Angus Catchot, an entomologist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “One big difference was that we were more educated in our control efforts. No one was caught by surprise, and everyone had budgeted for control.”
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Low feed costs and steady demand are keeping the playing field level for Mississippi swine producers, but the bottom line at year’s end will be down from 2014 totals.
Mississippi’s value of production for hogs was $153 million last year. No estimates are available for 2015, but hog prices have been much lower than they were in 2014, while hog numbers were higher at the first of the year.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Mississippi farmers planted more peanuts in response to economic factors that made the crop an attractive choice this year, but a lack of rain now has them expecting average yields.
Mississippi has 42,000 acres of peanuts this year, up 45 percent from what was planted in 2014. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates 84 percent of the crop is in fair to good condition.
STONEVILLE, Miss. -- Rice harvest has begun in Mississippi, but only time will tell how many acres were actually planted and how good yields will be.
“There’s not a lot of yield reports yet, but I think we’re going to have a good crop,” said Bobby Golden, rice agronomist with the MSU Extension Service and researcher with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. “It probably won’t be as good as last year, but we set records the last two years running.”
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Mississippi’s timber industry is holding steady this year from 2014 as both the U.S. housing market and the demand for lumber continue to improve gradually.
State average stumpage prices for hardwood sawtimber declined sharply in the second fiscal quarter of 2015 from the first quarter, while pine sawtimber prices increased. Hardwood sawtimber is down compared to a year ago, while pine sawtimber is slightly higher.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Mississippi forage producers are taking the good with the bad and dreading the ugly. The state’s pastures have produced ample grass, but they have also suffered from abundant weeds and stem maggots, and fall armyworms may soon cause even more problems.
Rocky Lemus, forage specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said summer rains have produced good growing conditions for pastures and hay production across the state. Mississippi has about 760,000 acres in hay production.
BILOXI, Miss. -- Mississippi fishermen remain intent on harvesting this year’s shrimp crop in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico despite low prices and a season paused and restarted.
Dave Burrage, Mississippi State University Extension professor of marine resources at the Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi, said the shrimp season first opened June 3, closed June 19 when shrimp were too small, and then reopened July 13.
“This season has been an anomaly so far,” Burrage said.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Wet spring weather prevented Mississippi farmers from planting as many corn acres as they intended, but despite the heat, the crop is mostly looking good in fields across the state.
“We should have a good crop this year, but it won’t be a record,” said Erick Larson, Mississippi State University Extension Service corn specialist. “The planted acreage is down from what was intended because it was terribly rainy during spring planting, which delayed planting and restricted corn acreage.”
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Mississippi soybean farmers are projected to harvest the most acres in over 25 years despite narrow planting windows and issues getting the crop established.
Trent Irby, soybean specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said planting challenges as a result of wet spring weather hampered early plantings, but the crop has rebounded despite recent hot weather with sporadic rain relief.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Record beef cattle prices are making Mississippi producers happy to be in the business this summer.
Brian Williams, a Mississippi State University Extension Service agricultural economist, said 400- to 500-pound Mississippi calves are selling for $282.50 per hundredweight, and 700- to 800-pound steers are selling for $200 per hundredweight.
“Mississippi feeder cattle prices are higher this year than a year ago by about $20 to $30 more per hundred pounds,” Williams said.
RAYMOND, Miss. -- High consumer demand and lower input costs have Mississippi catfish farmers filling their ponds to the brim.
“Consumer demand has stayed pretty high, and that has farmers stocking at high rates, even though pond acreage is down by almost 8 percent from last year,” said Jimmy Avery, Extension aquaculture professor at the Mississippi State University Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville. “We are optimistic that consumers are still out there and demanding a U.S. farm-raised product.”
LUCEDALE, Miss. -- Mississippi watermelon growers battled frequent rains to get their crops planted and ready in time for the Fourth of July and other summer celebrations.
David Nagel, horticulture specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said most of the crop is smaller and later than normal.
“If the sun doesn’t shine, the leaves don’t make sugar, plants don’t grow and we have smaller watermelons,” Nagel said. “Recent sunny days are allowing some of the crop to catch up. Melons may still be small, but they will be sweet and firm, or crisp.”
DECATUR, Miss. -- Max Anderson has set an auction date. Soon, he will sell all of his 150-cow dairy herd.
Anderson will then mark the end of 38 years in the dairy business after taking over his family’s Newton County farm. After a widespread dairy economic crisis in 2009 that put him and many of his peers in debt, he finally bounced back after a profitable 2014.
“It would be foolish to dig that hole again,” Anderson said. “No one in the next generation wants to take over the dairy, and it seems like the time is right. There are more reasons to get out than stay in.”