Why the Fear of Unknown Wines?

Later this year I will be headed to Oklahoma to do some consulting for the Oklahoma Grape Industry Council.  The idea is to help growers improve production and quality in the vineyard.  Since I spent 6 years there I have knowledge of the diverse eco-regions within the state and some of the challenges that growers face.  Something that I heard while there and after is that consumers don’t want/won’t try wines they aren’t familiar with.  This means that the winery believes they need a Chardonnay, a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Merlot, etc. to be successful.  While I don’t dispute that wine consumers are narrowly focused, I also don’t buy into the idea that they won’t try or buy anything else.  I look to Minnesota and Missouri, which have thriving wine industries, without any or very little Vitis vinifera grapes being grown.  There are some states that cannot grow these grapes for one reason or another (too cold, disease, etc.).  Many states can grow them, but sometimes I question why.  Does the world need another mediocre/decent/good Cabernet Sauvignon?  I don’t pretend to know the answer to that and can only speak for myself — almost without fail I can find a superior bottle of wine at the store for far cheaper than the winery.  Now, I don’t want to diminish the wineries doing it — they produce a local product that helps the agricultural and tourist economies of the state.  Good for them and good for us.  But some places just shouldn’t be growing certain kinds of grapes when others produce a better product.  Since I work with the grape and wine industry I like to taste different wines to get a perspective on them.  I know I am in the minority, but I would choose a hybrid wine over almost any vinifera wine any day of the week.  Why?  To me vinifera wine is about nuance, the parameters of what the wine can offer is limited in scope.  If one buys 5 bottles of Cab from 5 different wineries in 5 different countries, do they taste the same?  No, but they are all familiar.  I like to seek out unfamiliar wines that challenge me.  Hybrid wines do that for me.  I have had some outstanding hybrid wines.  There are hybrid varieties that can produce excellent wines — Traminette, Chardonel, Frontenac gris, Norton, Chambourcin, Noiret, etc.  I like these wines.  Even a mediocre bottle of these wines has something to offer.  As Americans we like familiarity — every McDonald’s in the U.S. has the same food.  We expect that, we are comforted by that fact.  But, that doesn’t make it good.  I believe hybrid and vinifera wines can co-exist.  The problem is not in the vineyard or the winemaking — it is in the marketing and consumer education.  Until wineries and consumers branch out into the unknown, hybrid wines will be looked upon as inferior.  Unfortunately, that is a fallacy.

Fruit Crops for North Mississippi

Last week I was in Verona and gave a talk on Fruit Crops for North Mississippi at the Northern Mississippi Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association annual conference.  The weather was cold, but the crowd inside was good.  Lots of interest and excitement about all kinds of fruit and vegetable related topics.  Below is a photo of Dr. Blake Layton, MSU Extension Entomologist, addressing the crowd.

Dr. Layton at the NMSFVGA meeting in Verona

Dr. Layton at the NMSFVGA meeting in Verona

Although I didn’t get a photo with me speaking (should I have done a selfie?) my presentation is available for download at the link below as a PDF.

Fruit Crops for Northern MS 2014

UPDATE:  After posting this I was chastised by Dr. John Clark at the University of Arkansas for not listing the UA peach and nectarine varieties.  My reply was that they were untested in N. MS so I didn’t know for sure how they would perform.  He thought they would do well in that area.  So, this link: http://www.aragriculture.org/horticulture/fruits_nuts/nectarine_peach/default.htm will describe them and offer nurseries where to obtain them.

Center for Crop Diversification

This past weekend I was at the Southern Region – American Society for Horticultural Science meeting in Dallas.  At the meeting there were lots of great presentations.  One poster I saw was about the Center for Crop Diversification at the University of Kentucky.  They describe themselves as:

“The Center for Crop Diversification (formerly Crop Diversification & Biofuel Research & Education Center) offers printed and electronic resources on a variety of crops and marketing channels. Funding from The Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund will allow for expansion of the Center’s Web-based marketing and production resources. Funds will be used to develop online podcasts, webinars, video training, expanded price reports and new publications to meet the high demand for crop diversification information.

The Crop Diversification & Biofuel Research & Education Center (CDBREC) coordinated multi-disciplinary teams of faculty, staff and students to research and set guidelines for producing and marketing selected crops at a profit. The Center was funded by a Special Research Grant from the USDA from July 1, 2000, to June 30, 2013.”

There is a ton of information on this site (http://www.uky.edu/Ag/CCD/welcome.html) about all kinds of crops.  They also have a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/CenterforCropDiversification).

I especially like the Crop Resources section (http://www.uky.edu/Ag/CCD/othercrops.html) and the Crop Profiles section (http://www.uky.edu/Ag/CCD/intro.html).

Take a look and see if you can find a new crop to grow.  One of the beauties of agriculture is diversity and this site helps find a (perhaps unusual) crop that speaks directly to you.

Powdery Mildew Resistance in Grapevines

Powdery mildew is a problematic disease for growers of winegrapes around the world.  Without control it can be a devastating disease.  As part of the VitisGen project, this video was produced to help educate current and future grape growers on the disease and some of the solutions that are being sought through breeding.


Online Muscadine Resources Presentation

This past weekend I gave a presentation at the SE Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference in Savannah, GA.  The topic was “Online Muscadine Resources: Present and Future”.  It was in the Muscadine section and we had some great talks and lots of good discussion there.  Below you can download a pdf of my presentation as well as a handout with links to some online muscadine resources.

Online Muscadine Resources: Present and Future

Muscadine Online Resources, Savannah 2014

Fruit Problems Reported in Mississippi 2013

Each year the MSU Plant Diagnostic Clinic compiles a list of diseases/insects/disorders they see during the year.  Below are those that were seen in 2013.  You can access the entire list here:


The general format of the list shows the common name for the disease, followed by the scientific name of the pathogen, followed by a number in parentheses that indicates the number of times this problem was diagnosed in the lab.

Apple (Malus x domestica)
• Abiotic (1)
• Abiotic (Captan Injury Suspected) (1)

Blackberry (Rubus sp.)
• Canker (Coniothyrium sp.) (1) on ‘Arapaho’
• Yellow Vein Virus Disease Complex (1)

Blueberry (Vaccinium sp.)
• Abiotic (Pot Bound) (1)
• Abiotic (Iron Deficiency) (1) • Abiotic (Potassium Deficiency Suspected) (1)
• Anthracnose (Gloeosporium sp.) (1)
• Leaf Rust (Naohidemyces vaccinii formerly Pucciniastrum vaccinii) (1)
• Powdery Mildew (1)
• Insects (2)
• Sooty Mold (1)

Citrus (Citrus sp.)
• Insect Injury Suspected (1)
• Magnesium Deficiency Suspected (1)

Fig, Common (Ficus carica)
• Aerial Blight (Rhizoctonia solani) (2)
• Anthracnose (Colletotrichum gloeosporioides) (2)
• Fig Mosaic Virus (1)
• Pink Limb Rot (Corticum salmonicolor) (1)
• Root-knot Nematode (Meloidogyne sp.) (1)

Hickory (Carya sp.)
• Gnomonia Leaf Spot (Gnomonia caryae) (1)
• Sooty Mold (1)

Jujube (Ziziphus jujube)
• Leaf Spot (Cercospora sp.) (3)

Lemon (Citrus limon)
• Inadequate Sample (1)
• Insects (Scale) (1)

Mayhaw (Crataegus aestivalis)
• Quince Rust (Gymnosporangium clavipes) (1)

Muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia)
• Abiotic (Magnesium Deficiency Suspected) (1)
• Jelly Fungus Suspected (Tremallales sp. ) (1)

Nectarine (Prunus persica)
• Abiotic (Excessive Water) (1)

Peach (Prunus persica)
• Abiotic (Excessive Soil Moisture) (1)
• Bacterial Shot Hole (Xanthomonas arboricola pv. pruni) (4)
• Brown Rot (Monilinia fructicola) (1)
• Canker (Botryosphaeria sp.) (1)
• Root Rot (Armillaria sp.) (1)

Pear (Pyrus sp.)
• Leaf Spot (Cercospora sp.) (1)
• Fabrae Leaf Spot (Entomosporium sp.) (1)
• Quince Rust (Gymnosporangium clavipes) (1)

Pear (Pyrus communis)
• Abiotic (Magnesium deficiency suspected) (1)

Pecan (Carya illinoinensis)
• Abiotic (Kernel Fuzz) (1)
• Conk (Fomes fomentarius) (1)
• Insect (Pecan phylloxera) (1)
• Pecan Scab (Fusicladium effusum) (2)

Persimmon (Diospyros kaki)
• Abiotic (unknown) (1)

Satsuma (Citrus reticulata)
• Abiotic (Fruit Puffing)
• Abiotic (Magnesium deficiency suspected) (1)
• Insect Injury Suspected (possibly leaf footed bug) (1)
• Melanose suspected (Diaporthe citri) (1)

Strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa)
• Abiotic (Glyphosate Injury) (1)
• Angular Leaf Spot (Xanthomonas fragariae) (1)
• Crown Rot (Phytophthora sp.) (1)


MS Farm to School Trainings 2014

Just a reminder about the upcoming Farm to School Trainings; the first one will be this Friday, January 10 in Jackson, MS.  Growers and School Nutrition Directors are invited to attend!


Mississippi Market Ready

Mississippi Market Ready Training is back with a Farm-to-School training. These new trainings will be half-day trainings for producers and nutritionists. This half-day training teaches producers how to sell to schools and teaches schools how to buy from producers. Mississippi Market Ready: Farm-to-School includes an explanation of school programs, GAP and insurance requirements, supply of fresh products, and delivery specifications. Training will conclude with a step-by-step How to Buy Guide and a question and answer panel.

Workshops will begin at 9, but doors will open one hour early for registration and refreshments. Lunch and training materials will be provided. Please register one week in advance to ensure lunch and training materials.Download the flyer.

Training Dates

  • January 10: Jackson, MS Ag & Forestry Museum, Ethnic Building
  • January 24: Hattiesburg, Extension Conference Center
  • February 7: Verona, North Mississippi Research and Extension Center
  • February 21: Cleveland, Bolivar County Extension Conference Center


  • Ken Hood, Mississippi State University: Extension Service
  • Paige Manning, Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce
  • Priscilla Ammerman, Mississippi Department of Education: Office of Healthy Schools
  • Kevin Riggin, Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce





8:30 am   Doors Open for Registration and Refreshments
9:00-9:15 am   Introduction Ken Hood
9:15-9:45 am   School Programs (DoD & Local) Paige Manning & Priscilla Ammerman
9:45-10:15 am   GAP/Quality/Insurance Kevin Riggin
10:15-10:30 am   Break
10:30-11:00 am   Supply/Production/Delivery Ken Hood
11:00-11:30 am   Step-by-Step How to Buy Guide Priscilla Ammerman
11:30-12:00 pm   Lunch
12:00-12:15 pm   Follow-up Ken Hood
12:15-12:45 pm   Question and Answer Panel All Presenters
12:45 pm   Adjourn



Politics and Agriculture

What do politics and agriculture have to do with each other?  A lot.  And unfortunately not all farmers/growers/producers realize this.  Agriculture is a complex web of connected parts — there are growers, suppliers, researchers, educators, consumers, consultants, etc. that all depend on agriculture.  I’ve met many a grower who just wants to put his/her head down and work hard on their own farm.  I understand that.  Most growers are hard workers who spend a lot of time in their fields, on their tractors, and other tasks that consume a lot of time.  They are probably from farm families that have done the same thing for decades.


The world is different now than it was decades ago.  Agricultural lobbying is very powerful, but not all crops are equally represented.  Plus, powerful commodities in one state may be underrepresented in another.  Thus, the onus really falls on individual growers and state-based grower organizations to make their voice heard in politics.  They must know who the political power players are and get to know them.  They must be vocal about their needs and concerns.  So, how can this help?

I speak from the university side of things, but I have seen the effects of becoming politically active.  Once upon a time (when I worked in Oklahoma) the grape growers organization was a fledgling group without any political influence.  But, in six years time, they went from being an afterthought to gaining legislature to fund research, they met with and made wine for the Governor, and they have raised the reputation of their product (along with many other good works).  Their political savvy helped the OSU program through obtaining more grant funding.  No longer did funders say, “The industry is small and we don’t know how much interest there is in this work”, but rather, “Grapes are an important part of our funding expenditures”.

I see similar things here in Mississippi.  When I first arrived I applied for 2 specialty crop block grants through the MDAC, one for blueberries and one for grapes.  Both were declined.  One comments from the review committee on the blueberry grant said, “…there were concerns that adequate information is currently available for Mississippi blueberry growers”.  Really?  A comment on the grape proposal review said, “…the committee did not know how many growers were interested in grape production.”  Now, of course, there are limited funds to go around, but I believe these proposals would have faired much better if blueberry and grape growers made their needs known to political entities that direct these funds.

The power of a collective voice is substantial.  So, I encourage everyone who is concerned with their business and their industry to become more politically savvy.  Certainly the research, extension, and education done on many crops depends on it.

Food-Safety Workshops

Fruit and vegetable growers can learn techniques to make their produce safer for the consumer during one of four upcoming Mississippi State University workshops. Specialists with the MSU Extension Service and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station will conduct four separate workshops across the state on developing and implementing good agricultural practices and good handling practices. The workshops are from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the following locations:

  • Jan. 13 at the Forrest County Extension office, 952 Sullivan Dr., Hattiesburg;
  • Feb. 10 at the Frank T. (Butch) Withers Jr. Central Mississippi Research and Extension Center, 1320 Seven Springs Rd., Raymond;
  • Feb. 17 at MSU’s Bost Auditorium, 190 Bost, Starkville campus; and
  • March 11 at the Coastal Research and Extension Center, 1815 Popps Ferry Rd., Biloxi.

The voluntary guidelines, referred to as GAPs and GHPs, were issued by the Food and Drug Administration in 1998 to help growers eliminate food safety hazards that can occur during growing, harvesting, cleaning, washing, sorting, packing and transporting unprocessed foods, such as raw fruits and vegetables. Topics include site selection and soil; agricultural water; fertilizer and pesticide use; animal exclusion; worker health and hygiene; produce cleaning and water treatment; packing and storage; traceability; harvesting; cooling; transportation; and U.S. Department of Agriculture audit verification checklist.
Registration is free and open to all Mississippi fruit and vegetable growers who sell to the fresh market. Seating at each location is limited to the first 25 participants to preregister. A pre- and post-test will be given. Those completing the course will receive a certificate of completion. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. To pre-register or for more information, contact Dr. Mahmoud at 228-762-7783, ext. 301, or bmahmoud@ext.msstate.edu.
The workshop is funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture through the Southern Risk Management Education Center. Instructors are MSU Extension and research professors Mahmoud, Christine Coker, Eric Stafne and Gary Bachman, and Alcorn State University food safety specialist Nicole Bell.
Please see the following press release from MSU for more information: http://msucares.com/news/releases/13/nr20131125_gapscertification.html

Site Selection Considerations for Orchards and Vineyards

Yesterday I was in Choctaw, Mississippi giving talk at the Mississippi Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association annual conference.  The topic I delivered was “Site Selection Consideration for Orchards and Vineyards”.  As I promised, I have put the entire presentation at the link below that can be downloaded as a PDF.

MSFVG 2013 Site Selection Considerations