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Strawberry harvest delayed by weather

ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — A cold winter may have delayed strawberry harvesting, but it did not affect the quality or taste of berries.

Mississippi strawberry harvest usually begins in mid-March, but this year, cold weather pushed harvest back to the second week in April.

“Temperatures were about 10 degrees lower than normal, which pushed planting back a week and in turn, delayed harvesting by a few weeks,” said Wayne Porter, Mississippi State University Extension Service agent in Lauderdale County.

Randy Mathis, a strawberry grower in Clark County, expected yields to be lower than normal.

“Of course, we can’t say for sure, but it looks like we’ll have a much shorter harvest than in previous years,” he said. “We probably won’t be able to make up lost harvest time on the other end, because of the hot weather we expect to see in the coming weeks.”

Mathis and Porter both said the plants stop producing berries in hot temperatures.

The good news is that this year’s harvest already looks promising. Mathis said what has shortened the harvesting time has also enhanced the quality of the berries.

Strawberries are not a major crop for Mississippi, with the only acreage in Clark, George, Green, Lowndes and Wayne counties.

“Growing strawberries is expensive. It can cost $12,000 to $13,000 in materials, labor and chemicals before harvest,” Porter said. “The positive is that there is a good local demand for Mississippi strawberries.”

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