What is Your Marketing Plan?

You might be surprised to find out that this is usually my first question when someone says they wish to put in a planting of fruiting crops.  Not soil types, not cultivars, not cultural management, and not diseases.  All of those things are critically important, and believe me, I would I could stick only to those things (because that is my knowledge arena).  However, the world of growing and selling fruit is not an easy one to navigate. Overproduction and excess supply of some fruit make selling it difficult.  Sure, you can be a great grower, but if you are not a good marketer then you might as well forget it.

I don’t know how many times I have talked about marketing to the many, many growers I have dealt with. It is so crucial to understand that growing the fruit is not enough. The thought is, “If you build it, they will come.”


It should be, “If you build it, you better hustle and work to make sure they can find you.” Upfront education and the willingness to develop a marketing plan that is adaptive to change is key, because doing the same thing year after year (also called stagnation) is also a losing proposition.

I’m not a marketer. It is not my area of expertise. But, if you are planning to get into fruit production you need to become an expert or have the help of one in order to survive.


Winter is a Great Time for Education

Most of us are quite content to ignore our fruit plantings during the winter. At least I know I am guilty of that. Winter brings about other challenges for me — end of year reporting, conferences to attend, data to analyze, papers to write, etc. I know that everyone has their own stuff to deal with too making it difficult to keep your mind on something that isn’t growing (or at least appears that way). Of course there are a myriad of things that could be done to improve the planting, of which pruning and sanitation are some of the most important. However, I believe the most important thing to do during the time when it is too cold to get outside and you would rather bundle up in a blanket next to a warm fire is to learn. Education is a never-ending process. New things are discovered every year about fruiting crops. New pests, new varieties, new methods of management, etc. The great thing is that you no longer need to drive somewhere during sleet, snow, or icy drizzle to get to a meeting. Extension is starting to embrace online education techniques like webinars and blogs to keep clientele apprised of new discoveries. I would also encourage social media interaction. There are lots of Extension specialists and agents on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, etc.  These are all platforms to interact with us. If you don’t know how, just ask and any of us would be happy to help you learn these new things.  The world is digital and not going back. If we can find common ground with our learning environments we can all be so much better informed. So, what to do during this winter? Try something new and learn, learn, learn.

Reported Fruit Problems in Mississippi 2014

The list below illustrates the types of pathogens/problems found on fruit plants submitted to the Mississippi State University plant diagnostic lab in 2014. 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)
• Apple Scab suspected (Venturia inaequalis) (1)
• Cedar apple rust (Gymnosporangium juniper-virginianae) (1)
• Diplodia canker (Diplodia mutila) (1)
• Fireblight (Erwinia amylovora) (1)
• Flyspeck (Schizothyrium pomi) (1)
• Phoma Leaf spot (Phoma sp.) (1)
• Russetting (Abiotic) (1)
• Sooty Blotch (Gloeodes pomigena) (1)
• Undetermined (mummified fruit ) (1)

Blackberry (Rubus sp.) ‘Arapaho’
• Abiotic (Freeze damage) (4)
• Blackberry Rust (Phragmidium violaceum) (1)
• Cane blight (Coniothyrium fuckelii) (1)

Blueberry (Vaccinium sp.)
• Abiotic (Cold injury) (1)
• Abiotic (Possibly Glyphosate) (1)
• Leaf spot (Cercospora rubi) (1)
• Leaf spot (Septoria sp.) (1)
• Fruit Spot (Exobasdium maculosum (1)
• Twig Blight ( Fusicoccum sp.) (1)

Cherry (Prunus sp.)
• Insufficient sample (Vascular disruption suspected) (1)

Fig, Common (Ficus carica)

• Diplodia canker (Diplodia sp.) (1)
• Rust (Cerotelium fici) (1)
• Undetermined fruit rot (1)

Fruit Trees (Prunus sp.)
• Black knot (Apiosporina morbosa) (1)

Grape (Vitis vinifera)
• Abiotic (Magnesium deficiency suspected) (1)
• Abiotic (Freeze injury suspected) (2)
• Black Rot (Guignardia bidwellii / Phyllosticta ampelicida) (2)

Grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi)
• Borers suspected (1)

Jujube (Ziziphus jujube)
• Leaf spot (Cercospora sp.) (1)
• Fruit injury undetermined (1)

Mayhaw (Crataegus aestivalis)
• Insect infestation (1)
• Sooty mold (1)

Peach (Prunus persica)
• Brown fruit rot (Moilinia fructicola) (2)
• Peach leaf curl (Taphrina deformans) (1)
• Root rot (Armillaria sp.) (1)
• San Jose Scale (Quadraspidiotus perniciosus) (1)

Pear (Pyrus sp.)
• Abiotic (Chemical root injury suspected) (1)
• Fireblight (Erwinia amylovora) (2)
• Phomopsis Twig Blight (Phomopsis sp.) (1)
• Quince rust (Gymnosporangium clavipes) (1)

Pecan (Carya illinoinensis)

• Abiotic (Possible Nitrogen Burn or nutritional issue) (1)

• Animal injury suspected (1)

• No pathogens (1)
• Pecan phylloxera (Phylloxera devastratrix) (2)

Plum (Prunus sp.)

• Abiotic (Sunscald suspected) (1)
• Black knot (Apiosporina morbosa) (1)

Plum (Prunus spp.) ‘Shiro’
• Bacterial spot (Xanthomonas campestris pv. pruni) (2)
• Brown rot (Monilinia fructicola) (1)
• Plum curculio (Conotrachelus nenuphar) (1)
• Scale insect (1)

Satsuma (Citrus reticulata)
• Root/Stem injury suspected (1)

See the entire list here: http://msucares.com/lab/2014list.pdf

MSU Fall Flower and Garden Fest 2014 — Presentation on Fruit Crops

Last week, I gave a presentation on Fruit Crops for your Yard at the MSU Fall Flower and Garden Fest that was held in Crystal Springs.  This is a big event, with over 5,000 attendees each year.  You can find more info on this event at this link: Fall Flower and Garden Fest

As for my participation, I presented on some of the common fruit crops that are grown in Mississippi.  Unfortunately, the time is short (45 minutes) and I can’t go into all the details I wish I could.  But I tried to give the basics on several different popular fruit crops.  To access the PDF version of the presentation, click below:

Fruit Crops for your Yard

Mississippi Chill Hour Accumulation

I have previously wrote on the topic of chill hours, but I also get a lot of requests for what the accumulated hours are for the season.  This year I will be posting them on this site on the page entitled Chill Hours (on the right hand side of your screen).  By visiting this page, you will be able to keep up to date on the accumulated chill hours as reported by locations in five counties in Mississippi — Copiah, George, Jones, Lee, and Wayne.  The recordings are reported by volunteers, so they may or may not be available for each week.  In the future I hope to put together data from previous years (at least those I have) and also make them available on the site.

As of today, the first posting is up.  Each recording season runs from October 1 to April 1 of the following year.

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