Louisiana Soybean Research Verification Program

Linda Benedict, Levy, Jr., Ronald J.  |  7/28/2011 2:18:22 AM

Ronald J. Levy Jr.

The Louisiana Soybean Research Verification Program allows producers a chance to participate in a program that demonstrates profitability through improved agronomic and cultural practices.

In Louisiana, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, soybean producers averaged 41 bushels per acre on 1,020,000 acres in 2010. The U.S. average was 43.5 bushels per acre for 2010. Recently, higher soybean value and increased yields because of improved genetics and management have resulted in soybean profitability becoming the norm, barring natural disasters.

The trend has been increased yields. Some producers consistently produce high yields and make a profit farming soybeans using the technology and information sources available to all Louisiana producers. Many soybean producers, however, are not taking advantage of the data generated by the LSU AgCenter. In addition, some do not manage their soybean crops as primary production income sources. For example, rice farmers will rotate fields into soybeans to preserve the quality of the soil.

This Louisiana Soybean Research Verification Program was designed to combine production and management recommendations and persuade soybean growers that LSU AgCenter recommendations are sound and can improve profitability.

The objectives of the program are to:

  • Conduct on-farm field trials to verify the research-based recommendations from the LSU AgCenter with the goal of maximizing profitability.
  • Increase the confidence of producers, county agents and specialists in LSU AgCenter recommendations. 
  • Continue to build a good cost data base for soybean production in Louisiana.
  • Provide data on various production systems as to yields and cost.
  • Demonstrate what the higher-yielding fields have in common in addition to refining existing recommendations.
  • Aid researchers in identifying areas of soybean production that may need additional research.

The verification program was implemented in 1994 to demonstrate to soybean producers that current research is available to help improve profit. Producers are selected from representative soybean-producing areas in the state that use different cropping systems. The county agent in the parish chooses the participating producer. The only stipulations are that the producer must make every effort to follow AgCenter advice as closely as is practical. Each county agent will have backup support from the  project coordinator and from a team of state specialists in the various phases of production and management.

During the winter, a management plan including an individual objective for each field in the program is developed for the producer. The project coordinator makes the selection of the field with input from the producer, agent and other specialists. Selection depends upon whether there is potential for improvement in yields and profits. The grower’s best or poorest field is not selected, but rather an average one with potential for improvement. In each field, a soil test analysis will be conducted for plant nutrients and for possible damaging nematodes. Consultation between the grower and AgCenter personnel will begin as soon as the fields are selected. During the growing season, the agent will monitor each program field at least once a week with one of the state specialists. As the expertise of others is needed, they will be included. Input during the season will be provided by specialists in weed science, entomology, farm management, plant pathology and soil fertility. During each farm visit, observations will be recorded, and any inputs or recommendations to be made to the grower will be noted.

The verification program will be con-ducted for a maximum of two years with the same grower and, preferably, not on the same field each year.

Verification fields were established in the parishes of Madison, East Carroll, West Carroll, Catahoula, Richland and Vermilion, and two were in Concordia Parish in 2010. There are 10 verification fields across the state planned for 2011.

The biggest thing producers say they have learned is how critical timing is for all applications of herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and harvest aids to get the most economic benefits.

The Louisiana Soybean Research Verification Program shows that research is applicable to soybean production fields and can help producers improve profitability and sustainability.

Ronald J. Levy Jr., Extension Soybean Specialist and Interim Director of the Central Region, LSU AgCenter, Alexandria, La.

(This article was published in the spring 2011 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)

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