LSU AgCenter Experts Continuing Studies Of Saltwater Contamination In Southwest Louisiana

Steven Linscombe, Saichuk, John K., Schultz, Bruce  |  12/2/2005 3:32:29 AM

LSU AgCenter agronomists Brooks Blanche, at left, and Jason Bond work at the AgCenter’s Rice Research Station near Crowley – watering rice plants that sprouted in salt-contaminated soil from Vermilion Parish. The experiment is being conducted to see what levels of salt will affect a plant’s health and is important to the area because of storm surge brought in by Hurricane Rita.

Vermilion Parish cattle producer Stan Duplantis, far right, talks with LSU AgCenter agronomist Ed Twidwell, center, and LSU AgCenter county agent Andrew Granger about planting ryegrass on land contaminated by saltwater from Hurricane Rita’s storm surge. Duplantis said he had to plant ryegrass twice before it sprouted. Twidwell and Granger planted test strips of two different ryegrass varieties at seven locations in the parish that were affected by the storm surge.

News Release Distributed 12/01/05

CROWLEY – LSU AgCenter scientists hope they will soon be able to make recommendations for farmers whose fields were hit with saltwater contamination from Hurricane Rita’s storm surge.

"LSU AgCenter faculty are working diligently to answer the many questions the producers have relative to the soil and its suitability for production," said Dr. Steve Linscombe, the LSU AgCenter’s regional director for Southwest Louisiana.

Linscombe, who also is in charge of the LSU AgCenter’s Rice Research Station, said extensive soil sampling results are being analyzed to determine what, if anything, should be done to fields.

"The work being done by the scientists at the Rice Research Station won’t answer all the questions, but we’ll have a better idea of where we stand," he said.

Research is being done in a greenhouse to determine how well rice will grow in different soils collected from seven locations in Vermilion Parish. Linscombe said those locations also will be retested throughout the winter.

In addition, two products are being tested for effectiveness at helping plants overcome high salt levels.

Linscombe said most of the research published so far about salt contamination deals with salt levels in irrigation water rather than the effects of a storm surge. He said the LSU AgCenter wants to make certain its recommendations are sound.

"People would like to have answers today, but this is something we have to approach cautiously," Linscombe said.

LSU AgCenter rice specialist Dr. Johnny Saichuk agreed, saying interpreting the results of research and soil testing so far has been a challenge.

According to Saichuk, experts think it’s likely high levels of salt contamination will cause problems and that low concentrations will cause little to no damage.

"It’s the gray area that will be the biggest problem figuring out," Saichuk said.

Compounding that difficulty will be consideration of variables such as different soil types and the depth of saltwater penetration, Saichuk added.

"We don’t have research for anything like this," he said. "It’s just not clear cut."

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Contacts:
Steve Linscombe at (337) 788-7531 or slinscombe@agcenter.lsu.edu
Johnny Saichuk at (337) 788-7547 or jsaichuk@agcenter.lsu.edu
Writer:
Bruce Schultz at (337) 788-8821 or bschultz@agcenter.lsu.edu

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