Ag producers, scientists talk about research, needs

VERONA — More than 300 north Mississippi agricultural producers met with Mississippi State University representatives to hear research results and recommendations and to express what they need from the university in the coming year.

Steve Martin, head of MSU’s North Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Verona, said the annual meeting helps keep producers, researchers and Extension specialists on the same page.

“Two-way communication is essential to meet the needs of the state’s farmers and landowners,” Martin said. “We need to know about the challenges they are facing, and they need to hear what we are discovering in our research and our Extension outreach.”

Martin said participants clearly appreciated the assistance they receive from MSU throughout the year, providing positive feedback on the university’s supportive efforts.

“Their requests typically fall into one of two categories: Extension personnel and research,” he said. “We were able to introduce several new Extension specialists who were hired since last year’s meeting. We explained findings from last year’s research and plans for the coming season.”

The Feb. 20 meeting included 16 break-out sessions addressing agritourism, aquaculture, beef, cotton, dairy, forestry, fruit/nuts, goats, grain crops, horses, ornamentals, peanuts, sweet potatoes, swine, turf and vegetable crops.

 

Agritourism…

Martin said requests in past years led MSU to add a commodity session for agritourism. Two requests that emerged from that group were for Extension to hire a full-time agent dedicated to agritourism issues and for increased administrative leadership in that subject area.

 

Aquaculture…

Catfish farmers requested more research on alternative feeds, water quality and antibiotic impacts on immunity.

 

Beef…

Producer Jacob Megehee of Macon provided the report from the beef cattle commodity session. He praised Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station researchers and MSU Extension Service agents before presenting the group’s requests for the next year.

“Mississippi State has done a grand job at fulfilling our needs,” said Megehee, who is president of the Mississippi Cattlemen’s Association.

A recurring annual request from this group is for research on cool-season perennial grass and fire ant control, specific for north Mississippi pastures. Megehee said producers also want options for nitrate substitutes. Northeast Mississippi producers want assistance developing beef cattle budgets. The group requested insights into cattle buyer preferences and public perceptions of animal medications.

 

Cotton…

Producer Joe Camp said cotton growers depend on MSU’s support and they have been getting it. The cotton producers requested defoliation education and more research on weed control and nematodes. They appreciate on-farm trials.

 

Dairy…

The dairy producers’ request recognized the value of the MSU dairy herd. They asked that the university increase the herd size to ensure adequate milk supplies to accommodate the MSU cheese plant’s needs. If additional milk is needed, the producers want to make sure the university buys from an in-state herd.

Additionally, they requested more programs on dairy sustainability for market and industry growth.

 

Forestry/wildlife…

The forest and wildlife group asked for a centralized database of timber buyers. Two studies they need include one on property taxes and another on the economic impact of rural road permits.

 

Fruits/nuts…

Research dominated the requests of the fruit and nut growers. They asked for research on pecans, walnuts, peaches, pears and small fruits, such as berries and unusual fruits.

 

Goats/sheep…

Speaking for the goat and sheep producers, John Kilpatrick asked for research on dewormers and vaccines. The group also requested that the university hire a small ruminant specialist. Market news is needed for goat and sheep sales.

 

Grain crops…

Producer Dale Weaver also expressed appreciation for efforts by MSU in the last year. The grain crops group asked for guidance on corn insect control with seed treatments, starter fertilizer, Bt soybeans and iron chlorosis on soybeans.

 

Horses…

Educational needs dominated the requests from the equine group. They asked MSU to help legislators and the public understand the issues of horse slaughter and humane treatment. After the university hires an equine specialist, the producers want educational seminars and clinics for horse owners.

 

Ornamentals…

Tim Burress plugged the New Albany Farm and Garden Show on April 4 and 5, and then asked the university to help promote edibles in the garden as ornamentals and cut flowers. He said producers want MSU to update publications on pollinators. He asked for guidance on nonpesticide options for mosquito control and standardized labeling results for soil and mulch compositions.

 

Peanuts…

Fulfilling a request from last year, Jason Sarver introduced himself as the new peanut specialist with the MSU Extension Service and Experiment Station. Producers in his group requested maps of peanut-growing areas in Mississippi. They want MSU to continue the peanut disease screening program and state peanut variety trials.

 

Sweet potatoes…

The sweet potato producers asked for research on controlling nutgrass, tip rot and insects. They also expressed the need for a sweet potato breeder as others approach retirement.

 

Swine…

Producers thanked the MSU Animal and Dairy Science Department for initiating swine research. They want the university to help them stay up to date on compliance and environmental regulations. Producers want MSU to continue developing rapid mass communication methods to help producers address livestock health concerns.

 

Turf…

Producer Chris Hussey said the owners and caretakers of Mississippi’s 2.5 million acres of turf need educational publications. The turf group expressed appreciation that MSU refilled the turf specialist position and asked for continued research for weed control and fertilizer issues in the industry.

 

Vegetables…

MSU’s variety trials help vegetable growers. They said they would like to see more early variety trials for tomatoes, beans and other vegetables. They requested more research and information on organic and inorganic pesticides and hydroponic growth methods. They also asked for input on weed control with 2-4,D and drift concerns.

 

Before their reports, producers heard about the recently passed Farm Bill from John Anderson, deputy chief economist with the American Farm Bureau in Washington, D.C. The former MSU ag economist said the much-debated bill will bring significant changes to supplemental coverage options.

“We had friction across regional and commodity lines as this Farm Bill was written, largely because there was less money to work with,” Anderson said.

Anderson encouraged producers to educate themselves about the Farm Bill and to take advantage of the MSU ag economists’ knowledge.

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