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Northeast Research Station: Louisiana agriculture depends on it

Northeast Station Field Day, June 19; registration begins at 8:30 a.m.

View a 1:15-minute video about the station.

Northeast Louisiana's economy depends on the LSU AgCenter Northeast Research Station near St. Joseph in Tensas Parish. That's because agriculture is the backbone of the regional economy, contributing about $1 billion.

“The LSU AgCenter and the Northeast Research Station are our lifeblood,” said Billy Guthrie, general manager of the Balmoral Farming Partnership in Tensas Parish. “They have good scientists, and we want to continue that. We need the AgCenter to survive.”

Agriculture in the region served by the Northeast Station and the Macon Ridge Research Station in neighboring Franklin Parish is more extensive and diversified than any other region of the state. Commodities including soybeans, corn, cotton, grain sorghum,  rice and cattle are produced in this region.

New Crop Varieties
State and federal agencies and the private sector work cooperatively with the station, and various grants provide more than a third of the station’s budget.

“We are able to determine which varieties are better suited for our soils and environment,” said Donnie Miller, coordinator of research for the station. “Variety development is extremely important because what is productive in many areas may not grow as well here. Variety selection sets the stage for the entire growing season. Choosing the wrong variety cripples a producer for the rest of the year.”

Miller said research on irrigation, conservation tillage, precision agriculture and fertilization are all important for farming, “but also to protect our soil and water resources.”

Research helps farmers use the right amount of water and chemicals, he said, and that saves money. “We want to make sure we increase profitability of our producers. Our precision agricultural research is developing new technologies to strategically apply pesticides and other inputs to increase net returns only where needed. This also has important environmental benefits.”

Miller said state and federal agencies and the private sector work cooperatively with the station and provide more than a third of the station’s budget. "These collaborative relationships are among our most significant accomplishments because they help us focus our research on real-world problems faced by our farmers," he said.

“The Northeast Research Station is also fortunate to have excellent support from local governing bodies and the state legislative delegation,” Miller said.

This cooperation more than 80 years ago led to the station’s establishment in 1929 by the police juries of the 11-parish northeast Louisiana region.

Research, Outreach Focus Areas
The station is well-known for its research on conservation tillage.

“A lot of the recommendations we use today are based on the research conducted here over the past 20 to 25 years,” Miller said.

The station’s expertise reaches into all the parishes of Northeast Louisiana, Miller said, but requests for help also come from farmers and consultants in Mississippi and Arkansas.

Miller said current research and outreach programs at the station focus on crop and pest management with newer transgenic technologies, biology and competitive potential of crop pests, use of precision agriculture in pest management strategies, and pest resistance monitoring and management. Additionally, Northeast Research Station faculty supervise the research of graduate students from LSU AgCenter departments on the Baton Rouge campus.

Ray Young of Franklin, a corn and cotton farmer and as a crop consultant, said the station is valuable to agriculture. “They figure out solutions. They do an excellent job, and they go a long way to keep us in business up here.”

New Product Evaluation
Crop consultant Pat Mabry of Tensas Parish said the station helps him with new chemicals introduced every year. “And I seem to have a new set of weeds every year.”

The station’s proximity is important, he said. “They’re right here in our backyard doing the work in our dirt. They don’t like to toot their own horn, but we toot it for them,” Mabry said.

Crop consultant Cecil Parker of Vidalia said the station helps him with farmers in Louisiana and Mississippi. Parker said he gets help from the station with herbicide drift complaints, varieties, planting dates, insect control and weeds.

“Fairly often I call them and ask their opinion,” he said. “I think they’re real valuable.”

Keith Collins, LSU AgCenter county agent based in Richland Parish, said having a research facility only a few miles away is a huge asset. He said the work at the Northeast Station and the Macon Ridge Station enable scientists to study agronomics and pest control on the area’s two different soils.

“We’re getting research on the soils where our crops are grown,” he said. “It’s all right there at our fingertips.”

John Russin, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor, said the Northeast and the Macon Ridge stations have conducted dynamic, timely research programs that have resulted in new knowledge and technologies for enabling the sustainability of the agricultural enterprises in northeast Louisiana and other areas of the state.

“These research stations have been among the leading institutions in development of conversation tillage, management of insects and weeds,” Russin said. “The scientists at these research stations have also established a reputation for collaboration with fellow researchers in other states and federal agencies, private pest management consultants and agricultural producers. They work closely with county agents to extend results of their research.”
The LSU AgCenter is one of 10 institutions of higher education in the Louisiana State University System. Headquartered in Baton Rouge, it provides educational services in every parish and conducts research that contributes to the economic development of the state. The LSU AgCenter does not grant degrees nor benefit from tuition increases. The LSU AgCenter plays an integral role in supporting agricultural industries, enhancing the environment, and improving the quality of life through its 4-H youth, family and community programs.

Last Updated: 5/17/2013 12:34:12 PM

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