Muscadines in McNeill
What are the first words that often come to people’s minds when they hear the word vineyard?
Most people would say Napa Valley, Italy, grapes and wine.
Some would never think of McNeill, Mississippi.
For more than 100 years, 387 acres on Hwy. 11 N. in McNeill have been owned and operated by Mississippi State University.
The land, which is managed by farm manager Reggie Davis, is home to a variety of fruit crops including blackberries, blueberries and muscadine grapes.
According to MSU Extension Service fruit crop specialist, Dr. Eric Stafne, the McNeill site was the first experiment station in Mississippi.
“The muscadine grape is native to the southeastern United States and can be grown as far north as South Delaware and as far west as Oklahoma,” Stafne said.
The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service is currently renting the land from MSU to conduct research, Stafne said. They are researching production practices, plant breeding and disease and insect control.
According to Davis, it’s important to learn how to produce larger crops on smaller acreage.
The muscadine was the first named variety of grape, Davis said. It was named for the Scuppernong River, which lies between North Carolina and Virginia.
The grape grows in three different colors including bronze, red and purple, Stafne said. They are sweet and strong and are utilized to make wines, jellies, juices, vinegar and other products.
The muscadines are planted and established during the winter, Davis said. The plants are fertilized in March, May and July. They must be pruned during the winter months and trained to grow on a trellis.
Muscadine vines are sprayed for fungus in the summer and begin to bear fruit in April or May, Davis said. The grapes are harvested in August.
The MSU Extension Service hosts a yearly Muscadine Field Day in conjunction with harvest.
Learn more about MSU Extension Service and USDA at www.msucares.com and www.usda.gov.