Agricultural Crops


Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum)

Specimen #A016854: Mississippi State University Herbarium


Cotton Bolls as seen in the original, physical exhibit in 2017.

Photograph by Amy Moe-Hoffman (Dunn-Seiler Museum)


Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) has long been one of Mississippi’s main “cash crops,” thanks in part, to the rich soils of the Delta and the Black Belt Prairie. When speaking of cotton, we must also acknowledge the unfortunate role enslaved peoples played in the early success of Mississippi agriculture. According to the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, Mississippi ranks #3 in the United States in cotton production. In 2022, with $624.5 million dollars in production value, cotton ranked fifth behind poultry, soybeans, forestry, and corn in state commodities. Cotton is grown, harvested, and baled in Mississippi and sent to textile mills where the fibers are spun and woven into fabrics. Cotton fabrics are popular because they are comfortable and easy to clean. This makes cotton fabric a favorite many fabrics, being used for from T-shirts and jeans to towels and blankets.


Boll Weevil - Pinned Specimen

Mississippi Entomological Museum



(Anthonomus grandis)

This insect is, perhaps, one of the most
notorious in US history. Native to Mexico, they were first found in the US in 1892
and rapidly spread across all of the cotton
growing regions of the country. Boll weevils feeding on a plant’s cotton bolls significantly reduces the amount of cotton produced in infested areas. However, with collaboration and research, effective pesticides were developed, and the Boll Weevil was mostly eradicated from the US in the 1990s.


Cotton Leafworm Adult Moth - pinned specimen

Mississippi Entomological Museum


(Alabama argillacea)

Like the Boll Weevil, the Cotton Leafworm is native to Mexico and Central America, and opportunistically spread to the US to feed on cotton. Damage to the cotton is entirely by the caterpillars, which feed on leaves, twigs, and buds. Their populations surged in unpredictable patterns, making management and damage projections difficult. However, insecticide applications early in the Texas cotton growing season stunted their migration, and they were eradicated from the US, with the last documented record in 1998.

Man using cotton duster.tif

Man Using Cotton Duster - Atlanta Utility Works

#399-3275: Mississippi State University Libraries, Special Collections Department, Manuscripts Division

FIGHTING THE BLIGHT: Pesticide application

Cotton dusters are machines designed to apply chemical insecticides to crops. Many different styles of dusters have been invented over the years, but this early version patented by Atlanta Utility Works, was a walk-behind applicator that would have been pushed like a wheel barrow. 

The Mississippi Entomological Museum has an early version of the cotton duster patented by the Cole Manufacturing Company of Charlotte, North Carolina. You can see it in the museum's lobby.



Blazing Star Quilt Block

Historic Textiles Collection


Close up of Blue Cotton Dress Fabric as seen in the original, physical exhibit in 2017.

Historic Textiles Collection


The quilt block was sewn by members of the Northeast District Homemaker’s Cultural Arts Committee. Quilting is one of Mississippi’s many art forms. Quilts are produced by people from different communities across the state. The tradition of quilting is associated with family and friendship. Quilt patterns tell a story and document the history of the communities where they are made and are passed on to future generations.

The other images represent cotton dress fabric, lace, and a quilt all of which are part of the Mississippi State University Historic Textiles Collection.


Corn (Zea mays)

Mississippi State University Herbarium


Corn (Zea mays) also known Maize, was domesticated from a native grass called teosinte in Mexico between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago. By selecting certain plants over others, people transformed the small, hard cobs of teosinte into a larger cob with softer kernels that is characteristic of maize. Other traits selected by people include environmental tolerance to climates and soils, resistance to pests, and the type and amount of starch, which influences the use and taste of maize. Today, maize is in great demand as a food source for people and livestock, as well as a source of material for ethanol production. Corn production in Mississippi continues to climb, with more than 2,000 farms around the state contributing to an economic value of more than $436 million from corn production.


Malcolm Carter tests soybeans to see if they can be stored.

Mississippi State University Libraries, Special Collections Department, University Archives Division, Photograph Collection, Archives.


The domesticated soybean (Glycine max) originated from Glycine soja, a legume native to East Asia. Although still not fully understood, soybeans were likely domesticated in eastern Asia more than 5,000 years ago. Like many other legumes, soybeans house bacteria capable of fixing nitrogen, a much needed nutrient for plant growth. When grown with these bacteria, there is little need to add nitrogen fertilizers to the crops. Soybeans contain the highest amount of protein per seed than any other domesticated plant and are a popular source of essential nutrients. Soybeans are also used extensively as livestock feed, industrial applications, and for biodiesel production. In Mississippi, soybeans are a $1.011 billion crop.


Rice, a grass, was domesticated at least three separate times in central China, India, and west Africa beginning around 12,000 years ago. Its cultivation spread widely throughout the Asian continent and then around the world. Rice feeds more than 50% of the world’s population and represents 20% of the total calories consumed by people, especially in Asian cultures. Rice is a wetland plant and must be grown in swampy conditions. Rice is often grown in association with other plants that provide much needed nutrients. White rice contains only the endosperm, whereas brown rice also contains the outer cover of the seed and endosperm, giving it more fiber.  Wild rice, although still a grass, is unrelated to domesticated rice, but is commonly used in similar preparations.  Mississippi ranks 6th in the nation for rice production, and this crop results in an annual crop worth nearly $140 million.