Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture
The Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture conducts research on water quality and wildlife habitat within agricultural settings. MAFES scientists in wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture also have research appointments in the university's Forest and Wildlife Research Center. Scientists in the Thad Cochran National Warmwater Aquaculture Center are also academically housed within the department.
Learn more at www.cfr.msstate.edu/wildlife
Vaccine leads to better survival, bigger fish
MSU scientists have developed a vaccine and vaccine delivery system to protect catfish from commonly occurring bacteria that can cause death. During their first growing season, every catfish fingerling raised in the Mississippi Delta will be exposed to Edwardsiella ictaluri, the bacteria that causes enteric septicemia, or ESC. In research trials, vaccinated catfish have a relative percent survival rate above 90 percent. Vaccinated fish are also 20 percent larger than unvaccinated fish. MSU’s vaccine and delivery method were developed at the Thad Cochran Warmwater Aquaculture Center and received a provisional patent in 2013.
Conserving Mississippi's water supply
MSU's Research and Education to Advance Conservation and Habitat (REACH) initiative is creating a network of cooperative farms to showcase conservation practices, demonstrate how these practices benefit agriculture and the environment, and serve as models for sustainable farm management. Led by aquatic scientist Robbie Kroger, REACH has enrolled 41 conservation-minded Mississippi farmers who manage more than 126,000 acres. Participating farmers get data from university scientists on the latest best management practices, and they get to share the conservation practices they have implemented on their land. Primary goals of REACH are to control erosion, reduce the amount of chemical and nutrient runoff, and alleviate overuse of the state’s water supplies. Pesticides and fertilizers can have a major impact on water quality after they get washed from farmland and flow through ditches and streams to the Mississippi River and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico. More efficient irrigation will help the state conserve the Mississippi River Valley alluvial aquifer, which is of particular concern in the Mississippi Delta. REACH is a collaboration of MAFES, the MSU Extension Service, and the Forest and Wildlife Research Center.
Using a natural feed source for catfish
MAFES scientists are looking for ways to lower costs while maintaining quality in Mississippi catfish production. Charles Mischke and David Wise, MAFES aquacultural researchers at the Thad Cochran National Warmwater Aquaculture Center in Stoneville, found that catfish can thrive for the first 6 weeks after hatching by feeding on naturally occurring zooplankton. They examined the growth and survival of newly hatched catfish fry not fed specially prepared commercial feed. Compared with fry that were fed a conventional diet, these fish suffered no ill effects in size or health. Fry not fed for 6 weeks ate zooplankton and other microscopic food organisms, which are abundant in ponds and high in protein and other nutrients. Reducing or eliminating fry feedings during the first few weeks can reduce the cost of fish production, saving producers at least $236 per acre.
Conservation Benefits Farms and Wildlife
A USDA conservation practice designed to increase the population of northern bobwhite quails and other grassland birds appears to be working in Mississippi and elsewhere. CP33 Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds are native grass strips along row-crop field margins that provide food and shelter for birds. MAFES scientists in wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture have coordinated bird monitoring for the states participating in the conservation program. Results show that buffers increase bobwhite and songbird populations. Farmers are compensated for enrolling in the program.
Improved Grazing Systems for Cattle and Wildlife
MAFES scientists are evaluating cattle performance and environmental impacts of grazing based on native, warm-season grasses. These grasses once dominated the landscape but have been eliminated by conversion to agriculture and exotic forage grasses. Native grasses produce high biomass that is palatable and nutritious for livestock. These grasses also provide superior habitat for a variety of wildlife species, including bees and butterflies.
New Technique Protects Downstream Waters
A MAFES study has confirmed the success of a new technique of reducing nutrients in runoff water and protecting downstream waters, including the Gulf of Mexico.
Weirs, also known as check dams, are small dams used to collect water runoff from agricultural fields. Weirs are often the size of a drainage ditch, with a 2-foot channel in the center for water drainage. Weirs are made of concrete but can be moved to various locations in a drainage ditch.
As water from agricultural fields drains, high concentrations of fertilizer nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, can be carried downstream. These nutrients promote algal production and microbial decomposition in downstream coastal ecosystems like the Gulf of Mexico, which in turn decreases vital oxygen levels."
Farmers throughout the Delta have been protecting water quality for years and are now using weirs as a lowcost method to immediately reduce nutrient runoff.
Drainage ditches on farms filter and alter nutrients before water reaches rivers. Weirs can provide numerous locations along the drainage ditch for nutrients to be absorbed and transformed.