The Fruit and Nut program is under the direction of Dr. Eric Stafne. His office is at the South Mississippi Branch Experiment Station in Poplarville. Dr. Stafne holds a B.S. in Forestry from Michigan State University, an M.S. in Horticulture from the University of Arkansas, and a Ph.D. in Plant Science from the University of Arkansas. He has an extensive background with fruit and nut crops, both in academic and applied settings.
The major fruit crop in Mississippi is blueberries with an excess of 2000 acres. Blueberries are native to the Southeast and grow well in the pine belt of south Mississippi. A number of excellent varieties have been developed through the USDA and University breeding programs. These varieties are vigorous, productive, and exhibit excellent disease and insect resistance. Cultural practices have been developed for Mississippi growers in an effort to maximize production. Although blueberries are the dominant crop, other fruit crops are important on a smaller scale, such as grapes/muscadines, tree fruits, pecans, citrus, blackberries, and strawberries. Promotional materials developed through the Extension program are distributed to the public and commercial outlets.
Research is focused on growing suitable bunch grapes in the Gulf Coast region. Many bunch grapes cannot survive in this region due to disease problems. In order address this issue variety trials are currently underway that will determine the best grape varieties to choose for fresh consumption as well as processing. The fruit from these grapes is being evaluated for quality and the vines are being examined to determine growth and production habits.
Several Extension programs and presentations are given annually related to fruit and nut crops. In January/February, an annual blueberry educational workshop is held in Hattiesburg coordinating the efforts of Mississippi State University Extension Service, USDA-ARS, and the Gulf South Blueberry Growers Association. Also, annually is the Muscadine Field Day held in August/September. Typically more than 100 attendees enjoy this event that combines education with fruit tasting. In 2015 Dr. Stafne held a Grape and Muscadine Short Course in two locations in Mississippi to help new growers find relevant information and decide how to proceed with commercial grape growing. He also gives many presentations around the state on fruit production.
His blog is updated frequently and has information on many different fruiting crops. It can be found at msfruitextension.wordpress.com
You can also follow Dr. Stafne on Twitter. His handle is @EStafne
For more information contact Dr. Stafne at firstname.lastname@example.org