Agricultural producers pitch research requests

More than 230 commodity producers in northeast Mississippi shared their research and outreach needs with Mississippi State University specialists, researchers and administrators during the annual Producer Advisory Council meeting Feb. 18

By: Robert Nathan Gregory

The meeting is held each year on the third Thursday in February at the Lee County Agricenter and the MSU North Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Verona. Producers represented 13 commodity groups across 27 counties.

"These annual conferences have been successful because we've gotten producers involved. They know they can give input, and we're going to listen to them," said Reuben Moore, associate director of the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station and interim head of the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center. "What they say will be used in regards to Extension programming, staffing and areas of research we need to be involved in. The idea since these meetings began is to provide producers an outlet to talk with us, and we can fulfill their needs much better knowing their priorities."

Bill Herndon, associate vice president for the MSU Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine, said these meetings are necessary for the Experiment Station and MSU Extension Service to structure outreach and research programs in a way that improves producers' profitability and the sustainability of their operations.

"Our producers feel like this is important enough for them to come to each year, and they're getting value from being here because we respond to their recommendations," Herndon said. "Specialists with MSU in each commodity group look specifically at what growers said at this meeting last year and go down a list of what was recommended in past years to see what we did in response to their concerns, whether it's research or staffing. We have hired several commodity specialists in the last three years that have been a direct result of our growers' requests at these meetings."

The 13 groups represented were agritourism, aquaculture, beef, cotton, dairy, equine, forestry, fruits and vegetables, goats and sheep, grain crops, ornamentals, sweet potatoes and turf. After separating into breakout sessions, representatives from each commodity group presented reports on what they wanted to see Extension and Experiment Station faculty focus on in the short term.

Agritourism—Katherine Wise Schrock of Pontotoc County requested university staffing in agritourism to educate Extension agents and faculty about agritourism and for materials to provide for school field trips at farms.

"The more everyone with Extension knows about agritourism and what it involves, the more they can help us," Schrock said. "We need more research about agritourism's impact on the state. People want to know where their food comes from, and agritourism farms educate the public on the educational link between people who are in the industry and outside of it."

Aquaculture—MSU Extension agent Mark Peterman of Oktibbeha County spoke on behalf of this group, which requested research on waterfowl nutrition, bird depredation and best management practices for food fish and fingerlings, as well as more information about the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service's inspection program for catfish.

Beef—Jacob McGehee of Noxubee County requested a production economics study on cost efficiency, along with research on marketing, crossbreeding, the best month for sale of various calf and yearling weights, and cool-season perennial grasses that can survive harsh summers while fending off toxins.

Cotton—Joe Camp of Itawamba County asked for research on fertility, variety selection, the herbicides 2,4-D and dicamba, drift control and tank clearout.

Dairy—Jeremy Graham of Pontotoc County wanted more youth dairy education programs throughout the state and asked for research to include a grazing study of purebred dairy cattle compared with crossbred Holsteins, as well as investigations of efficiency-improving technologies for dairy producers.

Equine—David Peeler of Union County wanted to see an increase in youth involvement promoting safety and fundamentals and agent/volunteer training. He also asked for a beginner horse owner's clinic and research on feeding and supplementation.

Forestry—Ed Williams of Oktibbeha County wanted more information on forestry and logging benefits, expanded wood product research, the establishment of local wood marketing co-ops, clearinghouse information of area landowners who need thinning on their land, an app that estimates wood load per acre and research on faster-growing hardwoods.

Fruits/Vegetables—Gerald Jetton of Itawamba County asked for research on early-variety watermelons, a production and fertility guide for tomatoes, and more information on weed management and varieties for strawberries.

Goats/Sheep—Jonah Holland of Tishomingo County requested asked for additional staff support and research on small ruminants, parasite problems and withdrawal times for medications.

Grain crops—Keith Morton of Tippah County requested continued research on harvest aids, polyacrylamide, chicken litter and moving public varieties into foundation seed. He also requested that MSU compile an online spreadsheet for land values.

Ornamentals—Sherra Owen of Union County asked for continued plant trials with published results, an ornamental and landscape newsletter for northeast Mississippi, information on best water management practices and research on current ornamental pest and disease issues.

Sweet Potatoes—Wes Lowe of Chickasaw County wanted research on tip rot and insect control in plant beds and production fields. He also asked for continued on-farm variety trials and for the university to continue searching for a postharvest researcher.

Turf—Paul Welborn of Union County requested educational opportunities for clientele, continued research on shade tolerance and problem pests, and stronger enforcement of existing regulations to protect growers' freedom to operate. He also wanted to work on bolstering Mississippi Turfgrass Association membership numbers.

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