Alcorn trains farmers on clonal muscadine propagation during annual workshop

Farmers and land owners from Holmes, Simpson and Rankin counties attended the annual workshop on clonal propagation of muscadines held recently by Alcorn State University Center for Conservation Research.

The experienced and novice farmers learned about valuable technique of muscadine air layering from Dr. Girish Panicker, director of the Center for Conservation Research at Alcorn, and his staff.

“We are happy to train small and limited-resource farmers and have been conducting this workshop every summer since the year 2000,” said Dr. Panicker. “The farmers mastered air layering today, a useful technique that allows production of large-sized plants in a short time.”

He added, “This method is valuable for producing a relatively small number of plants of good size with minimum propagation facilities particularly when outdoor stock plant space is not a limiting factor.”

The program opened with greetings from Dr. Barry L. Bequette, dean and director of land-grant programs, School of Agriculture, Research, Extension and Applied Sciences (AREAS), and Dr. Daniel Collins, chair, Department of Agriculture.

Panicker explained that this free practical training seeks to help farmers to establish muscadine vineyards, both organic and inorganic, and start nursery businesses by effectively utilizing the limited number of mother plants.

“Muscadine is a native plant in Mississippi and can be a very profitable crop,” Panicker said. “A farmer can make about $10,000 per acre off of muscadine vineyards; and even more if he or she also runs a nursery and produces jam, jelly or wine.”

A retired district conservationist for Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Lamar Burgess from Water Valley, Mississippi, said, “My community members charged me to go to Alcorn and learn the air layering technique. I will use it to grow muscadines myself and share the knowledge in the community. We appreciate Alcorn for planting the seeds and growing knowledge in communities.”

Simpson County residents Artis and Carolyn Fletcher from Mendenhall, Mississippi, who own a 120-acre farm, came to Alcorn to learn the proper technique, so they could establish a muscadine vineyard.

“We found out about this workshop at the Small Farmers Conference and were really interested in this workshop. We once tried to grow muscadines but we were unsuccessful. So, now we are going to try to grow muscadnies again using our new skills. We look forward to coming back in the fall to pick up our well-rooted plants that we established today.”

Youth organizer in the Nollie Jenkins Family Center, Holmes County, Curtis Hill, thanked Panicker, his staff and the University for making their group a part of the workshop.

“We thoroughly enjoyed this educational, yet fun, event. During this memorable visit we learned about plants and exactly what type of plants and foods can be helpful and harmful to our body. We also learned how to air layer a muscadine plant.

At the end of the program, the participants enjoyed fresh fruits and other refreshments provided by the Center of Conservation Research. All the refreshments and the materials were provided to the participants free of cost and paid for with the funds acquired by the Center’s produce sale.

For more information on this training and other projects conducted by the Center for Conservation Research, contact Dr. Panicker at (601) 877-6598.

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