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State of Success: Mississippi

Nifa Author
Rachel Dotson, Public Affairs Specialist (Social Media)

To celebrate National Mississippi Day on November 30, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is highlighting the innovative NIFA-funded research conducted by the Mississippi State University’s Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station.

In the following interview with Karen Brasher, manager of communications for the Mississippi State University’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Marketing, learn more about the state’s history and the agriculture challenges Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station (MAFES) researchers are working to combat.

Please provide some historical background on the founding of your agricultural experiment station.

The Mississippi legislature created MAFES at Mississippi State with the Experiment Station Act in 1888. The Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station's 16 branch locations serve all regions of the state. Research addresses issues important and relevant to Mississippi farmers, industry, communities and families. MAFES discoveries improve plant, animal, and food production systems to enhance commodity production and conserve the environment for the benefit of all people. MAFES research improves food safety and quality to benefit human health and wellness.

Camden Oglesby, Mississippi State research associate; Dr. Jagman Dhillon, assistant professor; and Ramandeep Sharma, agronomy graduate student, all in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, are analyzing data from optical sensors to determine sulfur levels in corn plants. Photo by Dominique Belcher.
Camden Oglesby, Mississippi State research associate; Dr. Jagman Dhillon, assistant professor; and Ramandeep Sharma, agronomy graduate student, all in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, are analyzing data from optical sensors to determine sulfur levels in corn plants. Photo by Dominique Belcher.

What are some of your agricultural experiments station’s most notable successes and innovations?

Each year, around 150 MAFES scientists work on more than 585 projects. This effort has led Mississippi State University to rank 14th nationally for agricultural research funding.

  • Switchgrass – Developed three new varieties of switchgrass that tolerate the southern climate with quick germination.
  • Turf grass – Developed new variety of Bermudagrass, an offspring of Celebration Hybrid.
  • Rice – Developed new variety of rice that is resistant to blast disease, the most prevalent disease in rice.
  • Catfish vaccine – Developed vaccine and delivery system for Enteric Septicemia of Catfish (ESC), a disease that is estimated to potentially cost the industry more than $30-$40 million annually.
  • Developed a testing mechanism to diagnose Bovine Respiratory Disease in the field.
  • Crop budgets – Annually develop crop budgets for producers.
  • Aquaculture technologies – Contributed to a 59% productivity increase over the past decade in a crucial stage of catfish farming through technologies including intensive aeration, split ponds, and an ESC vaccine. Mississippi is number one in catfish production nationally.
  • CleanSeed Project – One of six universities that is designated as a National Clean Plant Network for sweet potatoes, improving production through clean, virus-free sweet potato slips. Mississippi ranks third in sweet potato production nationally.
  • LED lighting – Poultry is Mississippi’s largest commodity. MAFES scientists are looking at blue and red LED lighting to determine the impact of lighting on the growth and production potential of laying hens.
    Collin McLeod, research associate, and Kha Dan, research engineer, both in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, test the all-terrain robot in an agricultural field at Mississippi State. Working under the direction of Dr. Alex Thomas.
    Collin McLeod, research associate, and Kha Dan, research engineer, both in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, test the all-terrain robot in an agricultural field at Mississippi State. Working under the direction of Dr. Alex Thomas.

How does the NIFA-funded research conducted by your institution serve the citizens of your state?

As a rural state, agriculture contributes 18.6% to the state’s economy, representing 17.4% of all jobs in the state. NIFA-funding contributes to improved agriculture success through research that increases yields and profits while reducing environmental impacts. NIFA-funding also contributes to research that improves the livelihoods and health of Mississippians.

Troy Lindsey, MAFES research technician in wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture, catches a catfish at the South Farm Aquaculture Research Facility. In addition to the South Farm facility, scientists conduct research at the Thad Cochran National Warmwater Aquaculture facility at the Delta Research and Extension Center. Photo by David Ammon.
Troy Lindsey, MAFES research technician in wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture, catches a catfish at the South Farm Aquaculture Research Facility. In addition to the South Farm facility, scientists conduct research at the Thad Cochran National Warmwater Aquaculture facility at the Delta Research and Extension Center. Photo by David Ammon.

What are some of the unique agricultural challenges of your state that you are working to address?

Mississippi leads the nation in dependence of ground water—84% of our freshwater supply comes from groundwater according to the American Geosciences Institute—and much of that comes from the Mississippi River Alluvial aquifer. While Mississippi producers might not have the same challenges growers in Western states face, the Mississippi River Alluvial aquifer still loses about 300,000 acre-feet a year.

Chris Gregory, weed science graduate student; Dr. John Byrd, Extension and research professor in Plant and Soil Sciences; and Johnnie Thorne, MDOT program specialist; look at problematic weeds in the right-of-way. Photo by: David Ammon.
Chris Gregory, weed science graduate student; Dr. John Byrd, Extension and research professor in Plant and Soil Sciences; and Johnnie Thorne, MDOT program specialist; look at problematic weeds in the right-of-way. Photo by: David Ammon.

Going forward, how do you see your NIFA-funded search addressing your state’s most pressing issues?

NIFA-funding is important in helping our research program move forward in irrigation solutions, climate change mitigation, agricultural productivity, food safety and quality, animal and plant production, human health and well-being, sustainable energy, and sustainable communities.

 

Top photo: United States of America lights during night as it looks like from space. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Farm Bill Priority Areas
Plant health, production, and products;
Agriculture systems and technology;
Animal health and production and animal products;
Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health
U.S. States and Territories
Mississippi
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