Did you know that southern poultry farmers account for 61 percent of the nation's chicken production, that Coca-Cola was concocted by an Atlanta pharmacist 100 years ago mainly as a cure for hangovers and that the state of Mississippi has only four rabbis?

How about this: What modern-day invention has contributed most to the decline in the South's traditional cultural isolationism, agrarianism, romanticism, poverty, neighborliness, strong sense of place and summer evenings on the front porch?

Answer: the air conditioner.

These are among the facts and figures being compiled by scholars at the University of Mississippi for the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture.

Seven years in the making, the 1,200-page, alphabetized and illustrated volume is to be published late next year and is expected to be the most complete reference work on the mind, mores and mythology of Dixie, with entries ranging from Architects of Colonial Williamsburg to Zydeco Blues.

"There are other reference books on the South that look at the region from the point of view of a particular field of study, like sociology or music," said William Ferris, director of the university's Center for the Study of Southern Culture and one of two editors of the encyclopedia. "But this is the first that will offer a panoramic view of the region, with the best and worst aspects of southern culture."

With more than 1,000 entries, the book includes treatises on such diverse themes as agricultural and rural life, class and social structure, ethnic and cultural minorities, sports and leisure, and women and family life.

Biographical subjects range from Thomas Jefferson to legendary Mississippi mule trader Ray Lum, who summed up his philosophy of life in these words: "You live and learn, and you die and forget."

Other listings cover such Dixiana as Maiden Aunts, Cheerleading and Baton Twirling, Moon Pies, Convict Leasing, Kudzu, Okra, Snake Handlers, Pickup Trucks, Armadillos, Spanish Moss and the Rebel Yell.

There is even an entry on Goo-Goo Clusters, a candy bar made from chocolate, caramel, marshmallow and peanuts and known throughout the South from advertisements on Grand Ole Opry broadcasts.

"There's a famous southern saying that the first thing a baby wants is a Goo-Goo bar," said Charles Wilson, a University of Mississippi professor of history and southern studies, the book's other editor.

More than 800 experts from across the South and as far away as Europe have contributed to the encyclopedia. French literary biographer Michel Fabre wrote the entry on the great Mississippi-born writer Richard Wright, author of "Black Boy" and "Native Son."

Florence King, author of the steamy "Southern Ladies and Gentlemen" and "Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady," turned down an invitation to write the entry on southern-style sex.

"She said she felt she had written too much on the subject anyway and she only did so because the overheated imagination of the American public demanded that its writers write on sex," Wilson said.

Months of searching produced two experts on the subject, one to examine sexual behavior and the other to look at attitudes on sex below the Mason-Dixon Line.

Yes, according to the encyclopedia, southerners do it differently, or at least approach it in a different frame of mind.

"Southern culture has taught that there are proper roles or models for sex," Wilson said. "So you get the coed who thinks she's Scarlett O'Hara or the young man who thinks he's Rhett Butler. Or the good ole boy who thinks he's Billy Carter."

There is an entry on Good Ole Boys and one on Good Ole Girls. Former president Jimmy Carter's brother Billy, however, is listed under Carter Family.

The book is aimed at the broadest possible audience, from the casual reader to the serious scholar. Although most entries are written by university professors, technical jargon is avoided.

The book strives to give an in-depth picture of each subject. For example, the entry on the magnolia includes not only botanical information on the quintessential southern blossom but an explanation of the term "Iron Magnolia," used in reference to a type of southern woman whose outwardly delicate manner masks an implacable will.

"The South offers an extraordinarily rich mix of resources for a work like this," said Ferris, a Mississippi native who conceived the project while a folklore professor at Yale University.

The University of Mississippi created the southern studies center in 1977 and hired Ferris as its first director two years later. The encyclopedia became the new institution's flagship research effort and reflects Ferris' belief that southern culture is more than moonlight and magnolias.

At Yale, for instance, he once made a documentary film about a Mississippi farmer who taught pigs to pray before slopping at the trough.

Since returning to Mississippi, Ferris has made the Center for the Study of Southern Culture the home of a unique degree program in southern studies, the world's largest blues music archives and an annual William Faulkner conference that draws scholars from as far as the Soviet Union.

Worksk,2 on the encyclopedia is being financed by $250,000 in grants from the National Foundation for the Humanities, the Ford Foundation, the Atlantic Richfield Foundation and the Mary Doyle Trust of San Francisco. Individuals also have contributed.

Those who write entries receive no pay. "This is largely a labor of love," said Wilson, who was brought to Ole Miss in 1981 from Texas Technological University primarily to work on the encyclopedia project.

The volume is to be published by the University of North Carolina Press, which pioneered in publishing books on southern topics and is subsidizing some of the printing costs. The encyclopedia, expected in time for the 1987 Christmas book-buying season, is expected to retail for about $40.

Ferris said the project has encouraged scholars at the University of Massachusetts and at colleges in Utah and California to attempt similar efforts on their geographic regions.