Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on July 9, 1999. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Mississippians Produce Fruit Despite Weather
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Watermelons, blueberries and peaches are finding their way to Mississippi tables despite the weather conditions Mother Nature throws at them.
A mild winter that deprived peaches of their necessary chill hours, a dry spell this summer and recent rains during harvest have not stopped growers from producing decent yields. The market is providing reduced prices for watermelons, average prices for peaches and better-than-average prices for blueberries.
"There's an old saying that dry weather will scare you, but wet weather will kill you," said Kerry Johnson, George County agricultural extension agent.
Johnson said watermelons are such a sun-loving crop, the slightly dry conditions were not a factor, but recent rains have challenged harvesting.
"It's hard to load and ship watermelons in rainy weather," he said. "Surprisingly, the crop has been on schedule. The drought did help reduce disease problems."
Johnson said growers aim for watermelon harvest before July 4 for the bulk of their income and "anything after that is just gravy."
Dr. David Nagel, horticulturist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said melons are larger this year, but the prices are average.
"Production has been good across the region, which keeps prices from improving much," Nagel said. "Watermelons are going for about 6 cents per pound wholesale."
Blueberry growers are experiencing the best of both worlds as strong demand is helping prices remain high throughout a good harvest season.
Dr. John Braswell, Extension horticulturist, said Mississippi's crop had minimal freeze damage last spring enabling a good crop this summer. Recent reports on the health benefits of blueberries have triggered an increased demand for the fruit.
"Growers are receiving about $15 a flat, or $1.50 per pound, compared to about $12 for a flat in past years," he said.
Braswell said the Miss-Lou blueberry cooperative of Mississippi and Louisiana growers has produced about 1.5 million pounds, mostly from Mississippi. Growers from outside the cooperative produced another million pounds.
Dr. Freddie Rasberry, Extension horticulturist, said what peaches lack in quantity, they are making up for in quality. Some areas were more impacted by a lack of cold weather last winter than others. Smaller loads on trees result in better quality.
"Prices have been comparable to recent years at about $15 to $20 per bushel wholesale," Rasberry said.