AgCenter News

Linda Benedict  |  3/18/2015 10:58:20 PM

Outstanding Master Farmer 2014, Ruben Dauzat

Ruben Dauzat, chosen as the Outstanding Master Farmer of the Year for 2014, wants to make the best crop possible each growing season, but he doesn’t forget the long-term goal of conservation of the land and water.

“Our names might be on a piece of paper, but we don’t own the land. We’re just here for a short period of time,” Dauzat said. “Everything we do on our farm is concentrated on conservation.”

He grows corn, soybeans, grain sorghum, wheat, cotton and cattle on the 1,200-acre Wayside Farms near Simmesport in Avoyelles Parish.

Dauzat was given the award on Jan. 13 during the annual convention of the Louisiana Association of Conservation Districts in Baton Rouge, when nine other farmers were given certification as Master Farmers.

The Louisiana Master Farmer Program helps farmers learn the latest in conservation practices. Sponsors are the LSU AgCenter, which provides the education, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Louisiana Farm Bureau and the Louisiana Cattlemen’s Association.

Dauzat said participating in the program affirmed he’s on the right track. “Master Farmer rededicated me to conservation. I knew I was doing the right things, but it made me do it better and more of it.”

Dauzat, also a graduate of the LSU Ag Leadership program, was an easy choice for the Outstanding Master Farmer Award, said Donna Morgan, Louisiana Master Farmer Program extension associate. e’s been pretty involved with soil and water conservation, and we’ve had field days at his farm,” she said. Bruce Schultz

Guide to solar power for your home now available

The LSU AgCenter has released a new guide to help homeowners learn more about solar power technology for their homes. The 24-page guide, which is available as a PDF file online only, provides information about solar power benefits, limitations, technology options, installation and financial considerations. It was written by AgCenter extension housing specialist Claudette Reichel with input from 18 experts from around the country. Go to www.LSUAgCenter.com  and search for solar power. Olivia McClure 

Sugar Cane League honors Salassi

LSU AgCenter economist Michael Salassi received the American Sugar Cane League President’s Award at its annual meeting in Lafayette on Feb. 3. The award is given to individuals for their outstanding contributions and service to Louisiana’s sugarcane industry. In presenting the award, league president Mike Daigle highlighted Salassi’s work with the industry through research and extension activities and by providing analysis of the sugar market. Tobie Blanchard

Retired rice specialist feted

More than 100 friends, farmers and fellow employees turned out on Jan. 13 for a reception at the Acadia Parish extension office for Johnny Saichuk, who retired as LSU AgCenter rice specialist.

“You don’t have any idea how many people you’ve helped,” Steve Linscombe, Rice Research Station director, told Saichuk. “I don’t think you realize how many people hold you at such a high level of respect.”

Jerry Whatley, retired county agent in Calcasieu Parish, spoke about Saichuk’s help for extension. “You came along at the right time, and you made us all better. And we just appreciate your honesty and integrity.”

Saichuk said he will continue to be active in agriculture as a consultant.

“Through the years, I’ve really looked up to Dr. Saichuk, and he’s taught me a lot,” said Dustin Harrell, the new rice specialist. “I know I have very big shoes to fill.” Bruce Schultz

Researchers try to get ‘energycane’ to grow in colder climes

LSU AgCenter researchers continue to evaluate energycane varieties planted at the Macon Ridge Research Station in Winnsboro as a possible new crop for producers to grow as a biofuel feedstock.

“The plants have survived the cold temperatures common during north Louisiana winters,” said Collins Kimbeng, plant breeder. “They are yielding well and don’t appear to be suffering from any damages caused by frigid temperatures.”

Energycane is a cross between sugarcane and its wild relatives. It is grown for high fiber, or biomass, and not sugar content.

“Creating an energycane variety that is cold-tolerant will extend the range of cultivation and allow for producers outside the traditional cane-growing areas to produce energycane crops,” Kimbeng said.

“Our goal is to produce an energycane crop with minimal inputs, such as reduced nitrogen rates and reduced cultivation,” said Kenneth Gravois, sugarcane specialist. A. Denise Attaway

AgCenter group works on irrigation efficiency

Greater irrigation efficiency in Louisiana is critical, according to Stacia Davis, irrigation engineer at the LSU AgCenter Red River Research Station in Bossier City. In some parts of the state, groundwater supplies are dwindling and becoming unsuitable for use on crops. Inefficient irrigation costs farmers money and encourages nutrient runoff, which negatively affects nearby waterways.

Davis said AgCenter researchers and extension agents are planning projects to examine the efficiency of various irrigation methods and technologies. For example, Davis is studying the use of soil moisture sensors to aid decisions about irrigation scheduling. Other projects include research on how different irrigation strategies affect crop and soil health.

Many farmers in northwestern Louisiana face the dilemma of not having surface water, which forces them to irrigate with water from a declining aquifer. However, the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s recently-completed Red Bayou Watershed Project is helping change that.

Two intake pumps in the Red River send water to Red Bayou, which forms three pools in Caddo Parish. Farmers in the area can now  pump water from those pools, which will help reduce aquifer overdraft and soil erosion, said NRCS district conservationist Brian Baiamonte. Olivia McClure 

Fresh produce safety focus of workshops

Louisiana fresh produce growers learned about ways to reduce food safety risks at a series of workshops held across the state Feb. 10 to 13.

LSU AgCenter food safety specialist Achyut Adhikari said 48 million, or one in six, Americans get sick from foodborne illnesses every year. That statistic prompted the Food Safety Modernization Act, which will require farmers to take preventative measures against food safety risks, once the Food and Drug Administration finalizes rules to enforce the law.

Illness-causing pathogens, such as salmonella and listeria, come from a variety of sources. The most common source is fecal matter, Adhikari said, which can be spread by water, wildlife, waste and workers.

Simple steps like hand washing, using clean equipment and keeping wildlife away — things many farmers already do — can cut down on contamination.

Farmers must document their food safety practices to become certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices, Adhikari said. Many retail stores that buy fresh produce will require sellers to be certified.

The certification process will require growers to pass an audit, an on-farm inspection, assuring they comply with the new rules, Adhikari said. Audits are performed by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. Olivia McClure

Two donations made to livestock show

The Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation has given $150,000 to the LSU AgCenter Livestock Show — the largest single donation in the show’s 80-year history. The funds establish an endowment for Supreme Champion Animal awards in beef cattle, dairy, poultry, sheep, goats and swine. Ten winners will be selected at each Livestock Show and will receive academic awards of $1,000 each. In addition, PotashCorp, of Geismar, Louisiana, donated $50,000 to support showmanship awards and serve as the corporate title sponsor for the 2015 show. Olivia McClure

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