Crop consultants honor LSU AgCenter sugarcane scientist

Bruce Schultz  |  1/4/2011 1:14:30 AM

News Release Distributed 02/15/10

ALEXANDRIA, La. – The Louisiana Agricultural Consultants Association inducted Dr. Ben Legendre, LSU AgCenter sugarcane scientist, into the Agricultural Hall of Fame during the organization’s annual conference recently (Feb. 10-12).

Legendre, previously the LSU AgCenter sugarcane specialist, was recently named as director of the LSU AgCenter Audubon Sugar Institute. He has conducted sugarcane research during the past three decades, and he has been a lecturer in dozens of countries.

“The distinguished award is well-deserved by Dr. Legendre,” said Dr. David Boethel, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor for research. “His expertise is recognized internationally, and it’s good that consultants in his backyard have seen it fitting to honor him.”

The LACA also awarded $2,000 scholarships to two LSU AgCenter doctoral students and an undergraduate LSU student.

The two Ph.D. candidates, Tracy Price, who studies under Dr. Boyd Padgett, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist, and Rebecca Melanson, working with Dr. Jong Ham, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist, tied for the scholarship. They were both given the stipend, according to Hank Jones of the LACA.

Matt Baeurle, an undergraduate majoring in agricultural pest management, also received a $2,000 scholarship sponsored by Dow Agro Sciences.

Dr. Bill Richardson, LSU AgCenter chancellor, told the LACA membership that the AgCenter’s relationship with the organization has improved considerably in recent years.

Richardson said the entire agriculture industry must make the American public aware that food prices in the U.S. are the cheapest in the world. “We have to continue to remind people why that is.”

He said if support for agriculture declines, food prices will increase.

Richardson thanked the consultants for helping last year to minimize state funding cuts for the AgCenter and for the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. “Things would have been a lot worse without your involvement.”

He said he may ask for additional help when additional budget cuts are proposed. Retirements and eliminating unfilled positions eased the budget problems last year, but any reductions in operating funds this year would require more drastic cuts, he said. “At some point there are some things we’re just not going to be able to do.”

The consultants got a long-range look at the weather patterns from LSU AgCenter meteorologist Jay Grymes. He said the southern United States is unusually wet because of La Niña, formed from warm air in the Pacific Ocean that has brought moisture from the west in the sub-tropical jet stream that created low pressure areas in the Gulf of Mexico.

He said La Niña appears to be weakening and may dissipate by summer. That would allow more increased hurricane formation, he said, and one forecast is for 11-16 named storms for the 2010 hurricane season.

Owen Taylor, an agricultural journalist and owner of AgFax Media, said farmers and consultants will have to adopt new digital technology to stay current with the industry.

He cited the e-mail newsletter by Dr. Johnny Saichuk, LSU AgCenter rice specialist, and a blog by Dr. Natalie Hummel, LSU AgCenter entomologist, as innovative uses of new media. “Here in Louisiana, your tax dollars are well-spent.”

Taylor said consultants are increasingly dependent on e-mail and text messaging to communicate with clients. Some consultants are even reluctant to start new working relationships with farmers who don’t have or use e-mail, he said.

Several LSU AgCenter experts made presentations at the conference:

– Dr. Don Boquet, LSU AgCenter agronomist, advised that the chances of soybeans being afflicted with green bean malady can be minimized by not planting late in the growing season.

– Dr. Jim Griffin, LSU AgCenter agronomist, said the use of soybean desiccants such as Gramoxone can result in an earlier harvest by two weeks without affecting yields.

– Dr. Daniel Stephenson, LSU AgCenter agronomist, told consultants that pre-plant incorporated herbicides can reduce reliance on glyphosate and provide residual action against new weed growth.

– Dr. Jeff Davis, LSU AgCenter entomologist, said two new soybean pests pose a potential threat to Louisiana soybean growers, the marmorated stinkbug and the bean plataspid, both invasive species from Asia.

– Dr. Roger Leonard, LSU AgCenter entomologist, said controlling weeds can help control harmful insect populations by eliminating vegetation that harbors insects. He also said turning over crop residue can disrupt the insects’ environment.

– Dr. Jeff Hoy, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist, said using fungicides on a cane crop can be effective against rust, but it probably will not increase yields or profits. “By using a fungicide,” he said. “You’re not making money, but preventing loss.”

– Dr. Mike Salassi, LSU AgCenter economist, said rice hybrids can be cost-efficient if yields and milling quality are high.

– Dr. Johnny Saichuk, LSU AgCenter rice specialist, said timing of a permanent flood is essential. “The sooner we can put water on the field, the sooner rice is going to mature.”

Bruce Schultz
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