Kenneth Gravois, Griffin, James L., Hoy, Jeffrey W., Reagan, T Eugene, Bogren, Richard C. | 7/20/2007 12:26:50 AM
ST. GABRIEL – One new sugarcane variety released earlier this year and two sugarcane varieties released last year were featured along with three new releases of energy cane at the LSU AgCenter’s Annual Sugarcane Field Day Wednesday (July 18) at its Sugar Research Station.
The new variety – HoCP 00-950 – was developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Sugarcane Research Unit in Houma in cooperation with the LSU AgCenter and the American Sugar Cane League in Thibodaux, said Dr. Kenneth Gravois, LSU AgCenter sugarcane breeder and resident coordinator of the Sugar Research Station.
Gravois also said two new varieties released last year – L 99-226 and L 99-233 – are being increased for planting this year.
"There’s a lot of anticipation in expanding these two varieties," he said.
Sugarcane growers and others associated with the industry were on hand for the annual event that features results of the latest research conducted at the station.
"This field day gives growers the opportunity to learn the latest research information for making decisions in the field, especially as they apply to economics," said René Schmidt, LSU AgCenter county agent in St. Charles Parish. "The research is critical in benefiting the growers and the industry itself."
The field day is a way to discuss information and learn from what the researchers are doing in actual sugarcane production fields, said Warren Harang III of Donaldsonville.
"Without research, production wouldn’t happen," said Harang, who raises 2,700 acres of sugarcane. "You have to emphasize the importance of this research station to the sugar industry."
One area of importance is the development of new sugarcane varieties, experts said.
In 2005, the variety LCP 85-384 was planted on 91 percent of the state’s acreage, but rust disease and declining yields have led to increasing interest in new varieties, Gravois said. Since 2003, the LSU AgCenter and its USDA and American Sugar Cane League partners have released six new varieties they expect will provide improved alternatives to the old standby variety of sugarcane.
This year’s new variety, HoCP 00-950, performed well over the past three years of tests, the experts said.
"We’re excited about its potential," Gravois said. "As we move to earlier harvesting, this variety will certainly have a fit on most farms."
In addition to the new sugarcane variety, the cooperating agencies released three high-fiber cane plants for biofuel applications, Gravois said.
"High-fiber canes have the potential for biofuel applications," he said. "They’re a good start for an emerging industry."
The sugarcane breeder said major energy companies have visited the LSU AgCenter during the past few months looking for information on manufacturing ethanol from cellulose – the fibrous parts of plants – rather than from only the sugars and starches.
In another report at the field day, LSU AgCenter sugarcane specialist Dr. Ben Legendre said December 2006’s temperatures, particularly those in early December, were unprecedented – among the coldest recorded across the state’s sugarcane-growing region in the past 60-80 years.
"It gave us the opportunity to look at the cold tolerance of several of the new varieties," he said.
Legendre said the newer varieties L 99-226 and L 99-233 appear to be "not quite as good in cold tolerance" as older varieties. He suggested growers select and plant the new varieties with the expectation of harvesting them before cold weather sets in.
On another topic, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist Dr. Jeff Hoy said rust disease isn’t as bad this year as in past years because the early freeze last winter and a cool, late spring slowed the spread of the pathogen that causes the disease.
Hoy said the remedy to rust disease is fungicides, and the LSU AgCenter is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to gain approval for new fungicides to use on sugarcane. He said getting new chemical control for rust looks promising.
New sugarcane varieties with rust resistance "should help a lot," he said.
Dr. Gene Reagan, an LSU AgCenter entomologist, said the sugarcane borer and the Mexican rice borer are the two major insect pests of sugarcane.
"Sugarcane borer populations are growing," Reagan said. "They thrive in the same environment as sugarcane."
The Mexican rice borer, on the other hand, has not yet reached Louisiana. Reagan cited a state quarantine as instrumental in keeping the pest from moving into the state from Texas, where it has been attacking sugarcane for several years.
In another in-field presentation, Dr. Jim Griffin, an LSU AgCenter weed scientist, presented information on weed control to kill perennial weeds on fallow fields during the time between fall harvest and late summer planting.
Kenneth Gravois at (225) 642-0224 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Ben Legendre at (225) 642-0224 or email@example.com
Jeff Hoy at (225) 578-1464 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Gene Reagan at (225) 578-1824 or email@example.com
Jim Griffin at (225) 578-1768 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Rick Bogren at (225) 578-5839 or email@example.com