Sugarcane farmers weigh wheat as rotation crop to control weeds, slow erosion

Bruce Schultz, Flanagan, Jimmy W., Harrison, Stephen A.  |  4/8/2009 3:48:54 AM

Stephen Harrison, LSU AgCenter wheat breeder, at far right, tells sugarcane farmers about the characteristics of different wheat varieties during a field day held at the Iberia Research Station and on the farm of Ronald Hebert of Jeanerette. (Photo by Bruce Schultz. Click for larger image.)

News Release Distributed 04/07/09

JEANERETTE, La. – Sugarcane farmers got a look at LSU AgCenter statewide wheat variety trials and nearby demonstration strips on April 6 to see what varieties are best suited as a rotational crop in the south Louisiana soils.

A total of 64 wheat varieties and experimental breeding lines are being tested on the LSU AgCenter Iberia Research Station, and 18 of these varieties are being evaluated in larger strip trials on the farm of Ronald Hebert.

Jimmy Flanagan, LSU AgCenter county agent in St. Mary Parish, said a few farmers have tried wheat and found it works on their farm.

“It provides an alternative crop in the off-season,” Flanagan said.

Hebert said he grew 430 acres of wheat this year, including the demonstration plots, and he will be harvesting in the next few weeks.

“It’s a rotation to develop a little cash flow,” Hebert said.

Hebert is uncertain how much wheat he will plant next year, and he said the amount could be controlled by price. “Four dollars used to be the minimum, but with input costs I don’t know if we can make it on $5 wheat.”

May wheat closed Monday at $5.57 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade, a 6-cent decline.

Hebert said growing wheat on fallow sugarcane ground is a good way to control weeds and reduce erosion. He has relied on the Delta Pine 9108 variety. “But I think it’s on the end of its cycle.”

This year he also grew AGS 2060, developed by the LSU AgCenter, and he expects it will be his top choice.

Dr. Stephen Harrison, LSU AgCenter wheat breeder, said AGS 2060 has demonstrated its potential with the highest yield across south Louisiana in 2008 and is increasing in acreage. He said it also has good disease resistance.

Harrison said demonstration plots included varieties obviously not suited for south Louisiana because of the lack of cold temperatures, but he wanted to show how each selection performs.

Harrison told sugarcane growers they probably won’t have to deal with the Hessian fly because rotation is an excellent control, but it is a formidable pest for growers in other parts of the state.

“If you don’t grow wheat after wheat, it’s not a problem.”

He said plants infested by the insect start dying suddenly, as early as two to five weeks after planting. He said application of Cruiser or Karate insecticides is dependent on timing. “You’ve got to catch those pupae when they hatch into adults.”

But a resistant variety is the best approach for the fly, he said, such as AGS2060, AGS2026, Oglethorpe or Pioneer 26R61.

Bruce Schultz

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