LSU AgCenter Agents Hear Sugarcane Updates

6/9/2005 2:51:40 AM

LSU AgCenter climatologist Jay Grymes discusses the impact of the recent drought with LSU AgCenter agents who work with sugarcane farmers during a May 23 meeting at the AgCenter’s St. Gabriel Research Station. Grymes was one of the speakers at the gathering, and LSU AgCenter sugarcane specialist Dr. Ben Legendre said the meetings are designed to keep agents up to speed on the latest research and information regarding cane production.

News Release Distributed 06/08/05

LSU AgCenter agents and researchers recently met for a look at issues affecting the sugarcane industry and to review a new video for use in recertifying sugarcane farmers for burning cane.

The twice yearly meetings are part of an effort to keep LSU AgCenter field agents who work with sugarcane farmers abreast of the latest research and information regarding the industry.

One of those developments relates to the burning of cane in fields.

The LSU AgCenter began offering training classes to sugarcane growers in 2000 to help growers become certified for burning sugarcane in their fields, said LSU AgCenter sugarcane specialist Dr. Ben Legendre. Certification protects farmers from liability if they follow burn recommendations.

The original certification was good for five years, meaning the time has come to recertify these farmers, Legendre pointed out.

"We decided to produce a video encompassing all the information taught in the original course so that the farmers could view the video for recertification," Legendre said, explaining recertification will be granted only if farmers who were originally certified view the educational video and complete the necessary paperwork.

Those farmers who did not take the original course will have to attend a block of approximately three hours of instruction and pass a test before becoming certified.

The video was produced by LSU AgCenter Communications and funded through a grant from Entergy.

In addition, the LSU AgCenter agents at the meeting, which was held in St. Gabriel on May 23, learned about sugarcane varieties and planting recommendations from AgCenter sugarcane experts.

"Each year we have two sugarcane extension/research training meetings," said Legendre. "Basically what I’m trying to do, and what cane specialists before me tried to do, is to expose the agents conducting the educational programs to the researchers and specialists conducting research.

"At this meeting we discuss insect control recommendations, as well as updating the agents on the latest in disease control," Legendre said. "The focus of our discussions is those items of immediate importance to the producers during the late spring, summer and into the next harvest period."

He said the LSU AgCenter extension agents will go back to their parishes to meet with their advisory committees to plan local field days. Parish field days for sugarcane began May 27 with a meeting in St. James Parish.

Alfred Guidry, an LSU AgCenter county agent in St. Martin Parish, said the meeting will help him provide valuable information to the farmers in his parish.

"The cane crop in St. Martin Parish looks fair to slightly above average now, but the purpose of me coming to this meeting was to get updated on all the new technology that’s relative to sugarcane production, especially disease control, insect control, cultural practices and other factors that affect sugarcane production in Louisiana," Guidry said.

Rene Schmit, an LSU AgCenter agent serving St. Charles and St. John parishes, said his area has nearly 10,000 acres of sugarcane and does not have a big problem with smoke and ash from the fields.

"Problems with burning are still a concern in some areas, but for the past two years, I haven’t had any calls coming to my office (about burning), and that has been the benefit of the burn certification program," Schmit said.

Schmit said the burn training has provided sugarcane producers with the opportunity to pay a little bit closer attention to when they burn and how they burn.

"The same numbers of farmers are burning, but what has changed is that they are now burning according to their training," he said. "They look at different factors that determine yea or nay as to when they do burn. They now burn according to the time that they will produce the smallest amount of ash and the smallest amount of smoke."

Sugarcane production and processing of sugar in the state meant nearly $500 million to Louisiana’s economy in 2004, according to figures compiled in the Louisiana Summary of Agriculture and Natural Resources by the LSU AgCenter.

For additional information on the Louisiana sugarcane industry – or a variety of other topics – contact your parish’s LSU AgCenter office or visit www.lsuagcenter.com.

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Contacts: Alfred Guidry at (337) 332-2181 or aguidry@agcenter.lsu.edu
Ben Legendre at (225) 642-00224 or blegendre@agcenter.lsu.edu
Rene Schmit at (985) 785-4473 or rschmit@agcenter.lsu.edu
Writer: Johnny Morgan at (504) 838-1170 or jmorgan@agcenter.lsu.edu

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