North Mississippi producers review ag needs with MSU

North Mississippi producers review ag needs with MSU

Agricultural producers from 27 counties and 16 commodity groups in north Mississippi met with Mississippi State University representatives Feb. 19 to discuss research and outreach needs. (Photo By: Linda Breazeale)

By: Robert Nathan Gregory

The annual Producer Advisory Council is held each year on the third Thursday in February at the MSU North Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Verona. George Hopper, director of the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station and dean of the MSU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said each year's council meetings are among the most important events for faculty with the Experiment Station and MSU Extension Service.

"Producers engage us in conversation about what we do and help us set education and research priorities," Hopper said. "We appreciate the fact that they will take time to work with us and give us advice. It's so critically important that we continue to advance our state economically, and we do that through products of the soil. Mississippi is blessed with land, water, forests and resources that we have learned throughout the years can benefit society."

Steve Martin, head of the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center, said these meeting give producers a chance to spell out what they need from Mississippi State. Producers often request for the university to hire new researchers and Extension specialists in specific commodity areas or to conduct more research and outreach to address particular production problems. Their suggestions help determine areas of focus for MSU experts over the next year, he said.

"We take input from our stakeholders and clientele any time they're willing to visit with us, but this is a structured opportunity for representatives from all our different commodities to come and let us know what we're doing well and what we need to do differently," Martin said. "There has been a very good group here for several years."

Commodity groups included agritourism, aquaculture, beef, cotton, dairy, equine, forestry/wildlife, fruits/nuts, sheep/goats, grain crops, ornamentals, peanuts, sweet potatoes, swine, turf and vegetable crops.

After separating into breakout sessions, representatives from the groups presented reports on the respective commodities.

Agritourism — Katherine Wise of Pontotoc County requested that MSU hire a full-time agritourism agent, provide funding for a "help wanted" website and help pay for materials for school field trips. She also wanted Extension staff to become more educated on what agritourism entails.

Aquaculture — Mark Koehn of Noxubee County requested more research on protein utilization based on fish size and Aeromonas, bacteria carried through infected freshwater fish.

Beef — Jacob McGehee of Noxubee County asked for more research on the development of persistent cool-season perennial grasses and early-growing summer perennials. His group also asked for a publication that provides feed values and economic comparisons on commonly used grains and forages.

Cotton — Joe Camp of Itawamba County requested further education efforts for the general public about producers' roles as environmentalists with emphases on how honeybees help producers and the benefits of genetically modified organisms. The group also asked for further seed treatment and nutrient research, as well as studies on herbicides that control broadleaf weeds.

Dairy — Jeremy Graham of Pontotoc County requested that MSU hire a dairy specialist and involve producers in that process. His group also asked for more promotion of the 4-H dairy program, as well as information on bedded-pack barns and bedding material. The group asked MSU to hire a dairy professor in its Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion.

Equine — John Fondren of Webster County requested mandatory diagnostic tests at horse sales to identify horses with equine infectious anemia, a retrovirus also known as swamp fever. He also requested more riding clinics for youths and adults.

Forestry/wildlife — Ed Williams of Oktibbeha County requested more research on recruiting, retaining and enhancing timber markets, as well as information on how to work with the Mississippi Development Authority and the Mississippi Economic Development Council to boost economic development and innovative future markets in the industry. His group also wanted to enhance communication efforts with producers for market prices, market development and timberland management.

Fruits/nuts — Gerald Jetton of Itawamba County requested additional pecan and peach research in north Mississippi with an emphasis on variety options.

Sheep/goats — Harry Patterson of Pontotoc County requested more internal and external parasite research and expanded forage training. His group also requested that MSU hire a small-ruminant specialist.

Grain crops — Keith Morton of Tippah County requested research on early-maturing corn hybrids, more characteristic ratings for soybean varieties and educational efforts with herbicide-resistant technology.

Ornamentals — Tim Burress of Union County requested an update of current Extension publications on ornamentals. His group also asked for publications about native plants to attract pollinators, xeriscaping, and identifying beneficial medicinal and edible native plants.

Peanuts — Johnny Yielding of Itawamba County requested a guide that identifies different types of fungicides, when they can be used and how much they cost. His group also asked for testing on fungicide-free peanuts and research on how to improve peanut harvest timing. The commodity group wanted to establish a statewide disease-monitoring network for the crop.

Sweet potatoes — Jamie Earp of Chickasaw County requested research on tip rot, variety selection and pest management, as well as an evaluation of the benefits of cover crops.

Swine — Byron Wilson Sr. of Chickasaw County requested MSU develop and build a production facility to support research and training. He also asked for research on methods to improve feed efficiency and by-product use. The group also emphasized the need to increase disease awareness through education.

Turf — Amelia Foote of Lee County said her group discussed variety development for resource-scarce environments and low-input systems. The group also discussed maintaining the freedom to operate through fair regulation and enforcing existing turf regulations.

Vegetables — Pat James of Union County requested early variety trial research in heirloom tomatoes, snap beans and watermelon. The group also asked for more information on nutsedge management and growing strawberries year-round in greenhouses.

Keynote speaker Jerome Goddard, associate Extension professor of medical and veterinary entomology in the MSU Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology, discussed the importance of pesticides in food and general public health.

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