(Vol. 46, No. 4) This is a focus issue about biotechnology.
Vol. 46, No. 2
Southern blight, caused by the fungus Sclerotium rolfsii, is a serious disease that attacks many plant species, including most vegetables grown in home gardens. The most obvious symptom of the disease is the sudden wilt or collapse, near or at mid season, of all the above-ground parts of the plant.
Fusarium wilt and the root-knot nematode are both serious diseases of cotton that cause substantial losses across the Cotton Belt. Both pathogens are common in most cotton-producing areas and often inhabit the same fields. These two pathogens often infect cotton simultaneously, forming a complex that increases the incidence and severity of Fusarium wilt.
Vol. 46, No. 1
Vol. 46, No. 2
Changing economic variables and business conditions increase the need to manage farm income and risk. Financial performance is measured in terms of profitability, risk and the ability of the business to pay bills on time (liquidity). Farmers can increase their profits by using selected pre-harvest marketing strategies instead of selling in the cash market at harvest.
The industry leader is high-priced, perfumed and soft. It comes to America’s shores from Thailand with a name that hints of its marketing advantage.Khao Dawk Mali rice is the premium Thai Jasmine variety in the United States. So far, no American variety has matched its delicate taste, appearance or cooking characteristics, but an LSU AgCenter researcher is trying to produce such a variety.
Finding a better way to use bagasse, a byproduct of sugarcane production in Louisiana, is a key research interest of the LSU AgCenter. Disposal of this byproduct is so far inefficient. About 85 percent is used in-house as fuel in mill processes and for other low-value applications such as mulch and inexpensive ceiling tiles. The remaining 15 percent is waste that is allowed to decay or is landfilled.
Poultry is the leading animal agricultural industry in Louisiana. The industry is concentrated in the hilly, northern Coastal Plain area where land is used mostly for pasture and timber production.
In the United States, all types of rice other than typical American long-, medium- and short-grain fall into the specialty category. Among these are aromatic rices, such as Jasmine and Basmati. Since these rices fit the specific needs of niche markets, they usually fetch a premium price. The demand for special purpose aromatic rice has increased dramatically in this country over the past two decades.
The LSU AgCenter has licensed technology to a start-up biotechnology company to produce a precursor for the drug insulin in chicken eggs. This technology was developed by Richard Cooper, a professor in the Department of Veterinary Science.
Byrel Book, a Beauregard Parish police juror, started out as a skeptic at a West Nile virus/mosquito control workshop in Crowley, one of eight sessions held around the state sponsored by the LSU AgCenter this past April and May. When the session ended, though, Book said he was convinced of the need to seek funds to help fight the threat of the mosquito-borne virus.
Conservation tillage systems, including no-till and stale seedbed, require successful control of native winter vegetation or planted cover crops before planting. Some winter vegetation is easy to control, such as annual bluegrass and common chickweed, while others are difficult, including curly dock and ryegrass.
Red morningglory is one of the more common and problematic weed pests found in Louisiana sugarcane fields. The traditional way to control it is to apply the herbicide atrazine in April or May when sugarcane is cultivated for the last time. The intent of this application is to eliminate weed competition until the crop is harvested beginning in September.
View six photos that accompany this article.
The LSU AgCenter’s Embryo Biotechnology Laboratory, located at the St. Gabriel Research Station, is set for a facelift and some more space in 2003. The renovated facility should be ready for a ribbon-cutting ceremony by the first of 2004.
Soon the portrait of another farm animal first will hang on the wall of the narrow hallway at the LSU AgCenter’s Embryo Biotechnology Laboratory, located near St. Gabriel, La.
As we headed into mosquito season in June 2002, the LSU AgCenter sponsored a one-day conference on mosquito-borne diseases. This was the first such conference ever hosted by the AgCenter and perhaps the first of its type in the country. Then, no one foresaw the severity of the West Nile virus to come.
Though Dolly the famous Scottish sheep is no longer with us, the promise of cloning as another tool in the quest to produce perfect livestock animals remains strong. The LSU AgCenter just had a successful experience in cloning a genetically valuable cow. And the owner, Louisiana rancher David Pattridge, is pleased.
Root-knot nematode can cause significant losses in cucumber yield if not treated with nematicides. Considerable effort has been made to breed for nematode resistance in vegetable crops and was successful in tomatoes but not in cucumbers. Tomato cultivars resistant to root-knot nematodes have been developed and are an effective means of reducing tomato losses from this pest. Additional benefits include a residual effect that remains in the soil and protects following crops from nematode damage.
The sugarcane industry has been playing a risky game in recent years because of its over reliance on the 10-year-old cane variety, LCP 85-384, which accounted for roughly 85 percent of Louisiana’s total sugarcane acreage last year.
The tropical and subtropical climate in Louisiana creates conditions that support mosquitoes year-round. Mosquitoes are not only a nuisance but, more important, can transmit several diseases to people and domestic animals when biting for a blood meal. Louisiana is historically host to several viral mosquito-borne diseases such as St. Louis encephalitis, eastern equine encephalitis and LaCrosse-California encephalitis.
Mosquitoes don’t need blood to live. Their main energy source is nectar from plants.
Roundup and other glyphosate-containing products are nonselective, postemergence herbicides that control many annual and perennial weeds. Roundup was initially evaluated in the South for preplant weed control in reduced tillage systems, but the role has expanded with the development of herbicide-resistant crops.
Thousands of acres of vegetables and strawberries are planted every year in the southern United States on black polyethylene-mulched and drip-irrigated beds. Black mulch increases early spring crop yield by retaining heat and moisture, conserving fertilizer and retarding weed growth.
An important feature of a precision seeder’s performance is its ability to place seeds singularly a given distance apart. Manufacturers of precision vegetable seeders promote their products as more accurate at seeding uniformity than typical agronomic seeders. Based on previous research with vegetable seeders, we decided to compare the seeding uniformity of precision vegetable seeders with agronomic seeders.
Difficulty in obtaining and maintaining an adequate stand in direct-seeded cabbage led to the investigation of possible culprits such as herbicides, insects and diseases. We hypothesized that use of Treflan (trifluralin) during periods of high soil temperature and low soil moisture would reduce germination and seedling vigor.
Russell bermudagrass hay is proving to be a profitable crop for Rex Wilhite of Ringgold.
Sometimes uninvited guests just don’t know when to leave. That’s the case with two invasive plants in the state, giant salvinia and hydrilla. But LSU AgCenter scientists are trying to give the eviction notice to these two aquatic weeds with herbicide and biological controls.
The heat is a winter crop that is often part of a double-cropping system, most often followed by soybeans. There is considerable interest in double-cropping cotton and grain sorghum with wheat. In North Louisiana wheat is planted in mid October to mid November and harvested from mid May to early June.
Predatory birds cause problems for aquaculture farmers because they eat their crops. In Louisiana, birds such as cormorants and pelicans prey on young catfish and crawfish, which costs producers thousands of dollars each year in lost revenue.
Off-flavor in pond-cultivated catfish is a problem for Louisiana catfish producers. One of the compounds most commonly cited as responsible for earthy and musty tastes and odors in water and the cause of off-flavor in catfish is geosmin, which is a substance produced by blue-green algae and bacteria. Although it is not a health hazard, geosmin in water can be absorbed in fish tissue, making fish taste bad and impossible to sell.
The number of annual bedding plant species and varieties available for residential and commercial landscape has increased dramatically in the last five to 10 years.
Consumer use of farmers’ markets has been steadily increasing in the last few years. The number of markets in the United States has grown by 63 percent since 1994. As of 2002, there were 2,868 farmers’ markets.
The LSU AgCenter honored four individuals and a team of research and extension faculty members during its 2002 annual conference in December.
A new wheat variety developed specifically for Louisiana growers and adapted to Louisiana and surrounding states has been released by the LSU AgCenter.
LSU AgCenter scientists are gearing up to participate in the search for alternatives to termite-preventing wood treatments. The search has become critical because the most predominate treatment – chromated copper arsenate, also known as CCA – soon will be taken off the market.
A group of LSU AgCenter entomologists, extension agents and other faculty members are working intently on projects that could help communities across the state reduce the risks of mosquito-borne diseases this summer.
Approximately 3 million broiler breeder eggs are set weekly to support the number of chicks needed to produce the more than 200 million broilers reared annually in Louisiana for human consumption. LSU AgCenter researchers are exploring increasing egg production in broiler breeder hens using inhibin-based immunopharmaceuticals.
Sweet potatoes are grown commercially by bedding whole potatoes in the field and transplanting cuttings from the sprouts produced in the beds to the production field. Thus, it is one of many crops, including potatoes, sugarcane and strawberries, grown by vegetative propagation.
Viruses cause lost productivity in all species of agricultural plants and animals. Viruses work by entering a cell and subverting the essential functions of that host cell to replicate their own kind. Implicit in this strategy for survival are consequences for their hosts, ranging from pain and suffering to possible death, depending on the nature of the virus and the particular host.
The integrated pest management (IPM) approach to insect control involves multiple tactics. Host plant resistance is one. Pest-resistant plants can reduce pest population growth, the number of pesticide applications and the environmental impact of pesticides. Though some research has been conducted on breeding insect resistance into soybean plants, most soybean breeding programs focus on increasing yield.
The bacterial genus Brucella includes six recognized species. They are characterized by the animals that they preferentially infect. Three of these bacteria were classified by the Centers for Disease Control as “agents of mass destruction” after the Sept. 11, 2001, tragic events in this country.
In traveling through the major crop-producing areas of Louisiana in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was common to see fields infested with many grass and broadleaf weeds. In some cases, it was difficult even to distinguish the crop. Traveling through those same areas in 2003 presents a starkly different picture. Fields are cleaner than they have ever been.
In the past decade there have been major advances in molecular genetics research. A wide variety of DNA-based markers have been developed. These include random amplified polymorphic DNAs (RAPD), amplified fragment polymorphisms (AFLP) and DNA microsatellites. These markers are used to map genes, study population genetics and produce DNA fingerprints.
Every once in a while someone comes along who can build a better mousetrap. And at the LSU AgCenter, that person is Richard Cooper, professor in the Department of Veterinary Science, who’s come up with a way to get chickens to lay eggs containing human proteins.
While the use of native vegetation is well accepted as a cost-effective measure to prevent coastal land loss, the concept of genetically improving wetland plants for the changing marsh environments is quite novel. LSU AgCenter scientists are focusing on development of genetically superior plants in native plant species for unstable coastal areas.
Genetic therapy is the introduction of a gene or group of genes into an animal to either correct the result of an abnormal gene or to form a new product that has a beneficial effect for the animal or for those using products derived from the animal.
The first caterpillar-resistant transgenic cotton varieties (Bollgard) were approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1996. The Bollgard technology has successfully reduced the frequency of sprays for caterpillar pests by about half.
A primary goal of the LSU AgCenter’s Biotechnology Laboratory (ABL) is to develop new commercial products and establish biotechnology as one of Louisiana’s future leading industries.
Biotechnology Education for Students and Teachers – BEST – is a program designed to help assure a flow of fresh talent into research at the LSU AgCenter. The program brings top-notch science teachers and their students to campus for a biotechnology-intense, six-week summer session.
LSU AgCenter rice breeder Qi Ren Chu grows the equivalent of thousands of acres of rice in his lab – a room the size of your kitchen. “Instead of growing plants in a field, we grow 5 million pollen (grains) in a Petri dish,” said Chu, trying to explain how he coaxes green rice plants to sprout in what starts out as a dish full of pollen swimming in a special chemical soup.
Recent developments in cell biology, molecular biology, immun-ology and genetic engineering have given new dimensions to research and application of biotechnology to farm animals. Historically, artificial insem-ination, one of the early reproductive technologies, has provided excellent opportunities to expand the superior genetics of selected animals in planned breeding programs.
Rice is one of Louisiana’s leading agricultural commodities, with nearly 532,000 acres planted in 2002, producing an average yield of 5,772 pounds per acre. The 2002 gross farm income reached $122.8 million, and value added in marketing, processing and transportation increased that amount to $159.6 million.
The aquaculture industry is looking increasingly to genetic improvement for gains in production. But improving the genetics of aquatic species can take a long time. With catfish, for instance, a male typically spawns with only one female each season. Even if genetically superior males and females could be identified, the process of developing breeding stock and improved lines could take a decade or more.
Cotton is the most important textile fiber crop and the world’s second-most important oil-seed crop after soybeans. Cotton is grown commercially in the temperate and tropical regions of more than 50 countries. In the U.S., cotton is a major agricultural crop and was grown on more than 12.2 million acres in 2002. In Louisiana in 2002, cotton was produced on about 490,000 acres, which was well below the 50-year average of about 680,000 acres.
Rice farmers throughout the world face a unique weed problem. A weedy relative of cultivated rice, red rice, can invade and severely infest rice fields, both lowering yields and reducing the selling price of the harvested grain. Most of Louisiana’s rice acreage is infested, at least to some extent, with this weed. Because of its close genetic relationship to commercial rice, red rice has proved difficult to control.
Strawberries are one of the most popular fruit crops grown in the world. Per capita consumption of fresh strawberries in the United States has increased in the past 10 years and is predicted to continue to rise in the foreseeable future. Most U.S. commercial production of strawberries is in California where the arid climate and low disease pressure make ideal growing conditions.
Rice farmer Danny Koch noticed something special as he piloted a combine the size of a small house through his 82-acre field of Clearfield 161 rice this summer.“This field was tremendously infested with red rice last year,” said Koch, who farms just north of Eunice. “Look at it this year. There’s not a stalk in here. It’s amazing.”
Topics include personal digital assistants as research tools, nematode-tolerant cotton and endowed professors.
Transgenic technology has had a dramatic effect on cotton production. In 2002, more than 70 percent of Louisiana cotton acreage was planted to transgenic varieties. Cotton varieties resistant to herbicides glyphosate (Roundup Ready), bromoxynil (BXN) and glufosinate (Liberty Link) have been developed.
Despite its success throughout history, cotton as a crop in the U.S. suffers from many problems for many different reasons. Cotton in Louisiana is plagued by diseases, insect pests and dozens of competing weed species. Adverse weather in early spring is hard on this tropical plant, and rainy periods during late summer and fall often cause yield losses through boll rot and delayed harvest.
Much of the land where cotton is grown in Louisiana has been used for cotton production for decades. This has left the soil deficient in both nutrients and organic matter. Some of these deficiencies could potentially be corrected by supplementing these soils with organic waste from Louisiana’s poultry industry. This is the state’s largest animal industry generating tons of organic waste that must be disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner
Management systems that include reduced tillage and cover crops are gaining popularity. These practices typically increase plant residues at the soil surface and organic matter in the surface soil. In turn, microbial activity is increased, and the soil develops a greater capacity to adsorb and retain many types of farm chemicals, including herbicides.
LSU AgCenter scientists have launched a project to explore use of the geographical information system (GIS) and global positioning system (GPS) technologies to manage nematodes that affect cotton production in Louisiana soils.
The tarnished plant bug has always caused problems in cotton, but in recent years the problems have escalated. Data from 1990 to 1995, before the advent of transgenic Bt cotton, put the cost per acre to control the tarnished plant bug at $3.19 compared to $12.02 from 1996 to 2002, after Bt cotton was introduced.
Geospatial tools offer great promise of increasing profitability of cotton production. These tools, however, must be adapted to the specific agronomic and plant protection needs of cotton production and made available in a user-friendly format that can be easily transferred to producers, commercial pesticide applicators and agricultural consultants.
The abundance of stink bugs has increased in Mid-South and Southeastern cotton-producing states in the last six years. Stink bugs have become more common cotton pests because of a number of changes in Louisiana’s agricultural environment that have made crop and noncrop hosts available year-round.
Profitable cotton yields can be produced on Louisiana’s alluvial soils when limiting factors are overcome. These include insect, nematode and weed pests and water. Too much or too little water within the soil profile retards cotton root development and nutrient uptake efficiency. Irrigation, properly applied, can increase yields, but improper management of irrigation can limit yields.
For more than 100 years cotton has been the most important crop grown in northeast Louisiana. At one time cotton was grown all across the state, but over the years it has become concentrated in the northeast part because of more favorable environmental conditions and because other crops are preferred in south Louisiana.
Our nation’s cotton production has undergone tremendous adjustments in the past 50 years fueled by the forces of technical change. One prime indicator of the magnitude of changes is yield per acre. At the national level, per acre cotton yields have increased more than 64 percent since the mid 1950s. At the same time, area devoted to cotton production has decreased 17 percent.
Farmers have been growing cotton since 4,000 B.C. in India. In the New World, cotton production goes back well before Columbus landed in the Bahamas in 1492. He took cotton back to Spain to prove he had circled the world and reached India. Until the 18th century, England was the center of the European wool clothing industry. However, cotton soon became the preferred fiber for summer clothing.
Farming practices can affect environmental and agronomic sustainability as well as productivity. Traditional farming practices in the Mid-South typically use tillage and produce one crop each year, which exposes the soil to long periods with little or no protection from elements that cause sediment and nutrient losses.
Cotton defoliation, a critical step in cotton production, is the process of removing leaves and preparing the crop for mechanical harvest. Leaf removal facilitates harvest and allows for more efficient and faster picker operation, quicker drying of seedcotton, straightening of lodged plants, retardation of boll rot and faster opening of green bolls.
Tarnished plant bugs, which have historically been a mid-season pest of cotton, are now becoming a sporadic pest during seedling development. This is happening as agricultural conditions are changing, making it possible for more tarnished plant bugs to survive. These changes include more plant hosts because of more acres going into conservation reserve programs and an increase in conservation tillage.
Systematic research in cotton breeding and genetic improvement began in Louisiana when H.B. Brown joined the staff of the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station (LAES) in 1926. The objectives of the cotton improvement and breeding program were to increase lint yield, to produce more uniform, longer cotton fiber and to produce larger bolls.
Resistance monitoring provides a useful tool for detecting changes in the insecticide susceptibility of field populations of insect species from year to year.
The cotton aphid is a common secondary pest of cotton in Louisiana. Cotton aphids can infest cotton plants from seedling emergence until harvest and injure plants by continuously feeding on them. Injury symptoms may include a downward cupping of infested leaves, inter-veinal discoloration, compressed main stem nodes and reduced plant height.
Conservation tillage systems, whether no-till or stale seedbed, require use of herbicides before crop planting to rid fields of native winter vegetation and planted cover crops. Elimination of competing vegetation, which is called burndown, helps improve soil moisture and assure crop stand establishment, rapid early season growth and efficient fertilizer use.
Gene Burris (standing in striped shirt), a professor at the LSU AgCenter’s Northeast Research Station at St. Joseph, La., explains to farmers gathered for a field day about the research he is conducting to determine how to use technology to better control nematodes.