Alcorn State University has sought to serve the needs of non-served and under-served, limited-resource farmers and rural residents throughout Mississippi. The Agricultural Research Program at Alcorn State University in general, is, therefore, designed to discover new knowledge and to provide solutions to problems confronting agricultural productivity and profitability. Although not limited to this scope, the primary mission of the research is to seek answers to problems of limited-resource rural dwellers in Southwest Mississippi. While specifically are geared toward assisting farmers in Southwest Mississippi, the research program at the Alcorn Experiment Station has statewide, national, and international significance.
The Alcorn Experiment Station (AES) was jointly established by Alcorn State University (ASU) and Mississippi State University (MSU) as a branch of the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station (MAFES) by Act of the State Legislation in 1970. This legislation mandated ASU as a Land Grant Institution to conduct research in agriculture and provide cooperative extension services geared towards improving socioeconomic conditions and quality of life for limited resource farmers in Mississippi, the nation and the world.
Specific Objectives of the Station
The specific objectives of the research program include: (1) seeking answers to problems facing limited-resource farmers and rural dwellers in Southwest Mississippi; (2) Enhancing income opportunities and quality of life of rural residents in Southwest Mississippi; (3) Providing hands-on experience in the form of part-time employment to undergraduate and graduate students; and (4) Investigating the economic merits of sustainable production of conventional and alternative crops.
Meeting Set Objectives
A series of field experiments have been used to compare the adaptability and yield potential of small fruits including blackberry, blueberry, muscadine, and strawberry at the station. Years of studies indicate that blackberry cultivars (Brazo, Cherokee, Comanche, Miss-1, Miss-2, and Humble); strawberry cultivars (Daybrak, Headliner, Earli Miss, Sunrise, Titan); blueberry cultivars (Climax, Woodard, Bluebell, Southland, Delight, Tiftblue and Briteblue) and muscadine cultivars (Fry, Cowart, Summit, Noble and Carlos) are adapted to the Memphis silt loam soil in Southwest Mississippi, and can provide additional income to residents.
Similarly, several varietal, cultural, and fertilizer trials have been conducted at the Station in an effort to identify high income generating vegetable crops in Southwest Mississippi. Vegetable crops investigated at the Station include cabbage, okra, peppers, tomatoes, peanut, Malabar spinach, amaranth, snap beans, pigeon peas, soybeans, watermelon, cucumber, muskmelon, sweet corn, sweet potato, and squash, among others. For cultivar trials, newly developed lines of different crops are compared with existing ones, or those already commercialized. They are usually evaluated for survival, growth, yield, pest resistance, and quality. Some tested crops include sweet corn, watermelon, onion, tomatoes, hot peppers, mushroom and noni.
Several cultural practices such as row preparation, cropping systems, weed control techniques, insect and disease control methods, have been used to determined the best agronomic practices for profitable production of the various cultivars. Currently, more environmentally friendly methods are employed as crop management techniques. For example, multiple cropping is being used instead of monocropping, and organic mulches and pesticides are being used instead of the synthetic types. Different forms of fertilizers (organic and inorganic), and time and rates of applications have been investigated. Additional studies with new lines of crops and types of chemicals are being conducted at the Station.
Both greenhouse and field studies have been used to evaluate some medicinal plants and herbs for survival, and yield potential. Medicinal plants being evaluated include Echinacea, Feverfew, Catnip, Valerian, Lemongrass, Vetiver Grass and Shiitake Mushroom, among others. These plants can be successfully grown in Southwest Mississippi. The culinary herbs evaluated include thyme, dill, basil, cilantro, marigold, oregano, parsley, mint and rosemary. Adding value to harvested fruits and vegetables has led to the development of a number of new products at the Station. Delicious native wines have been developed from muscadine grapes, blueberries, pineapple, and sweet potato among others. Hot pepper sauce has been developed from “Alcorn Long Pod” cayenne peppers. This hot pepper sauce has a trademark number (Reg. No. 3,713,628) issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office on November 1, 2009.”Alcorn Pat” peanut (obtained through mass selection) has excellent taste when boiled, roasted or fried. Alcorn meat and fish seasoning from harvested culinary herbs enhance the taste of cooked products.
Dissemination of Information
Findings are presented at professional meeting, published in professional journals, magazines, local newspapers and radio broadcast by stations. Annual field days, workshops and seminars are other means of sharing research based information with farmers and the public. Specific publications such as “Research Reports”, “Information Sheets”, “Bulletins” and “Brochures” are means of sharing information through Cooperative Extension agents and educators at Alcorn State University.
- Some farmers are now switching or incorporating identified alternative corps in their farming systems.
- Both sustainable and organic cropping systems are now being used by some farmers in their farm operations to reduce or eliminate the use of chemicals in crop production, which lead to contamination of the environment.
- Provided information needed for the daily operations of Alcorn Demonstration Farms on campus, as well as those outside the campus.
- Some graduate students have completed their thesis research using Echinacea, Feverfew, Lemongrass, and Amaranth as test crops. Undergraduates develop term papers from the crops, as a requirement for the completion of some courses in this department.
- Igbokwe, P.E., and S. Hollins. 2000. Response of Vegetable Amaranth to Plant Spacing. Journal of Vegetable Crop Production. 6(2):75-85.
- Igbokwe, P.E., L.C. Huam, Magid Dagher, Lashunda Anderson and Charles Burandt. 2002. Echinacea Cultivar Evaluation In Southwest Mississippi. Journal of Mississippi Academy of Sciences. 47(4):189-193.
- Igbokwe, P.E., L.C. Huam, F.O. Churkwuman, and j. Huam. 2005. Sweetpotato yield quality as influenced by cropping systems. Journal of Vegetable Sciences. 11(4):35-46.
- Igbokwe, P.E. and S. Asumeng. 2007. Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citrates) production in southwest Mississippi. Journal of Herbs, Spieces, and Medicninal Plants. Vol. 2(2):69-72.
- Igbokwe, P.E., F.O. Chukwuma, A.L. Burks, V. Igbokwe, and Z. Cuadra. 2011. Onion Production at the Alcorn State University Experiment Station. Advances in Science and Technology (5)2:109-112.
- Igbokwe, P.E. Quasona Proby and F.O. Chukwuma. 2012. Weed Control in Field-Grown Feverfew in Southwest Mississippi. Advances in Science and Technology (6)1:57-62.
- Igbokwe, P.E., A.L. Burks, C. Campbell, J. Jackson, and Z. Cuadra. 2013. Noni (Morinda citrifolia), Production and Utilization in Southwest Mississippi. Alcorn Experiment Station Research Report 1(1):1-5.