Three Mid-South universities met recently to develop a plan to combine resources to strengthen support for agricultural enterprises.

Experiment station and Extension Service directors from the University of Arkansas, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center and Mississippi State University met in June in Vicksburg, Miss., to discuss cooperating on research and educational programs to benefit agriculture.

One of the targets of the three-state, or ArkLaMiss, collaboration is water resources management. Water is an ideal area for cooperation because its management impacts all crops and cuts across state boundaries, said George Hopper, Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station interim director.

“We are forming a team of Extension specialists and research scientists from the three states to work on water quality and quantity issues, including irrigation technology,” Hopper said. “One of the positive factors of the collaboration is the advantage it provides in securing federal and other funding for programs, such as water management, that benefit the entire region.”

The cooperative effort also focuses on making the most of existing resources in the three states.

“Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi research and Extension programs are working across state lines to take advantage of common priorities and share expertise to serve agriculture in the most innovative, efficient and effective manner possible,” said Paul Coreil, LSU AgCenter and Extension director.

Each state has strengths in research and Extension programs for different crops. Louisiana, for example, has strong research and educational outreach programs for its sweet potato and pecan growers.

Mississippi has outstanding catfish resources, including the National Warmwater Aquaculture Center at its Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville.

Arkansas has the largest blackberry farm in the world, and the state has a thriving blackberry research program. The University of Arkansas is also leader in the region on research and educational programs for beekeepers.

“All three universities do a good job of providing research and educational support for the top row crops and other major agricultural enterprises,” said Rick Cartwright, associate director of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. “This collaboration focuses on the economically important enterprises with relatively small numbers of producers, crops with acreage on the upswing, and enterprises, such as dairy, that have experienced declines in the number of producers.”

Participants in the Vicksburg meeting agreed to develop a plan to share resources and expertise for catfish, poultry, sweet potato and pecan programs.