The Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station is the research arm of the LSU AgCenter. It is composed of academic departments, where experiment station scientists conduct research and hold joint teaching appointments in the LSU College of Agriculture, and research stations across Louisiana, where scientists develop new knowledge and technology to help our producers provide our citizens and those of the nation with a vast array of food, fiber and fuel.
The experiment station also includes the Audubon Sugar Institute, which focuses on sugar processing and biofuel production, and the Department of Agricultural Chemistry, which is jointly operated with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry and focuses on analyses of feed, fertilizer, food and pesticides for regulatory and research purposes.
The need for research from state agricultural experiment stations is as important now as it has ever been. The constantly expanding world population demands that we increase our food and fiber production. The key to sustaining agricultural production to meet the expanding population is through research to refine existing technologies, develop new technology and advance knowledge. As agricultural research and development meets the challenges of the future, we must be mindful of the environment. All of us want cleaner water and air, sustainable forests, a stable coastline and other outdoor amenities.
Agricultural research in Louisiana is dynamic, and its breadth is extensive. The traditional areas remain the core programs in the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station. These areas are plant variety development, improved animal and plant production, environmentally sound pest management, forest management and wood product development, natural resources conservation and management, food technology and safety, and agricultural economics. However, offshoots of traditional research have led to exciting discoveries in human disease diagnostics and treatment, value-added products for oil drilling operations and recycling technology for contaminated wood products.
The research conducted by experiment station scientists contributes substantially to economic development in our state. Too often, these contributions are taken for granted. For example, the rice industry that sustains much of the economy of southwest Louisiana has benefited greatly from the research emanating from the Rice Research Station and several departments on campus. For more than 100 years, research at the station has brought forth new, improved varieties, better cultural practices and improved pest control. The same case could be made that experiment station research has allowed the sugarcane industry to continue to be a mainstay of our state’s economy.
Two specific events clearly illustrate the role of our organization in economic development in Louisiana. Lamb Weston, a division of ConAgra Foods, Inc., built a plant in northeast Louisiana to process sweet potatoes. Lamb Weston is the unit of ConAgra involved in producing sweet potato products (french fries and other items) for grocery stores and large restaurant chains. When state officials and industry leaders announced the plans to build the plant, they cited as one of the four reasons for locating in Louisiana was the Sweet Potato Research Station in Chase, La., near the proposed plant site in Delhi, La.
Another example of direct contribution to economic development involves a technique, patented by the LSU AgCenter, which can be used to turn used plastic motor oil containers and wood waste into a strong composite material that can be used in construction. When the material is added to the “mud” used in the oil drilling business, the material prevents the drilling mud from seeping away from the drill as an oil well is being dug. A start-up company licensed the product and markets it to energy companies. The product is being made by a moulding and millworks company in rural Louisiana, which has hired back employees laid off because of the housing slump to manufacture the product. This illustrates how research led to a new start-up company, allowed an existing company to rehire employees, developed a value-added product from waste material (while protecting the environment) and aided another major industry -- oil exploration -- in our state.