AgCenter News Summer 2016

Linda Benedict  |  10/12/2016 9:18:19 PM

Economist wins MarketMaker award

LSU AgCenter economist John Westra received the Farm Credit

MarketMaker Innovation Award at the Annual National Value Added Agriculture

Conference in July in Madison, Wisconsin. This award recognizes his efforts to

help the Louisiana economy through MarketMaker, which is a national network of

states that employ interactive technology and information to connect farmers

and fishers with food retailers, grocery stores, processors, caterers, chefs

and consumers. Read the complete story.


Mosquito control-related bee kills are avoidable

Good communication between mosquito control operators and beekeepers and proper mosquito control techniques can prevent massive bee kills, according to LSU AgCenter entomologist Kristen Healy. She has conducted extensive research evaluating the effects of pesticides on honeybees and has determined that when done properly, mosquito control has minimal effects on honeybee health.

In her study, Healy conducted field trials using sentinel beehives in areas that received frequent applications of mosquito control pesticides and in areas that received no applications. The researchers counted average numbers of dead bees at all hives and did not see any increased mortality because of mosquito control activities, Healy said. Researchers also measured stress by analyzing indicator enzymes from the field-test bees and found no difference in stress between the two groups.

Beekeepers can minimize exposure to pesticides, Healy said, by requesting to be part of a no-spray zone or covering their hives with tarps during spraying. View the video.


Boldor lead scientist on $4 million NSF grant

LSU AgCenter researchers are part of a team of scientists at LSU and the University of Kentucky who received a $4 million grant from the National Science Foundation Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.

Dorin Boldor, associate professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, is the lead scientist on the grant. The team will work to create a new class of materials made from lignin, a byproduct of the biofuels, pulp and paper, and sugarcane industries. The scientists hope to develop a process to deconstruct the complex structure of lignin into simple molecules, then reconstruct it into macromolecules that can be used for a variety of purposes. The resulting materials, which would include thin films, membranes and nanoparticles, could have biomedical or industrial applications, such as water purification and energy storage or the creation of new types of antimicrobials. Read the complete story.


Kenneth W. Paxton, 1942-2016

Kenneth W. Paxton, a 40-year faculty member and former head of the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, passed away Aug. 23. He was 74 years old. Paxton joined the faculty at LSU in 1971 after receiving his doctorate at the University of Tennessee. He retired as professor emeritus in 2011 and was named the LSU College of Agriculture Outstanding Alumnus that same year. He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at LSU. His main area of research was the economics of cotton production, and he authored more than 200 articles and publications. He published many articles in Louisiana Agriculture and was on the editorial board in 2003-2005. He was active in numerous college, campus and professional organizations, holding officer positions in Alpha Zeta, Gamma Sigma Delta, the American Society of Farm Managers & Rural Appraisers, Red Stick Forestry Association, the Southern Agricultural Economics Association and the American Agricultural Economics Association.

Flood damage to agriculture rises to $277 million

Samuel Buller, who farms near Port Barre, holds a rice plant with rice that has sprouted after the 48-acre field had fallen over into floodwater. Buller, 21, farming for the first time on his own, said the rice fell over because the panicles were loaded with a good crop, but he was able to harvest a few other fields between rains. Buller’s yields are reduced, grain quality will suffer, and about a third of the plants in a 280-acre field fell over and sprouted. “It was some of my best-looking rice,” he said. His story is just one of many. LSU AgCenter economist Kurt Guidry estimates that the August 2016 flood in south Louisiana will cost farmers $277 million. That means Louisiana’s agriculture industry has lost at least $367 million of crops, livestock and equipment to floods in 2016. Before the August flood, north Louisiana farmers suffered $90 million of damage during flooding in March.

“These impacts will likely create significant financial challenges for many agricultural producers who were already under considerable financial stress resulting from low commodity production in 2015 and low commodity prices in both 2015 and 2016,” Guidry said.

The estimates account for production losses, quality damage, increased production costs and infrastructure damage and losses. AgCenter county agents gathered parish-level data that Guidry used in his calculations.

The majority of the $277 million impact comes from reduced yields along with quality losses that render crops unmarketable, Guidry said. Read the complete story.


Lamendola inducted into National 4-H Hall of Fame

Stanley Lamendola, a former assistant director of the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H and youth development program, is one of 16 people across the nation to be inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame in 2016. Growing up, he was a member of his 4-H Club in St. James Parish. He started his extension career as a 4-H agent in Avoyelles Parish and later held positions including community resource development agent, district agent and assistant director for field operations and 4-H youth development. As assistant director, Lamendola sought to expand the use of Camp Grant Walker, the 4-H facility in Pollock. He was in charge of remodeling the campgrounds and acquiring an additional 1.5 acres of land. The project added sidewalks, outdoor speakers and landscaping, and converted an old cafeteria into classrooms. Lamendola was the first president of the Louisiana Association of Extension 4-H Agents and spent more than two years in Malaysia to establish agriculture and youth education programs. Lamendola was inducted into the Louisiana 4-H Hall of Fame in 2010.


Del Monte explores opportunities for sweet potatoes

Representatives from Del Monte Foods Inc. visited and toured the LSU AgCenter Sweet Potato Research Station in Chase in June to explore opportunities for Louisiana sweet potatoes as part of their canning sector industry.

During the visit, Arthur Villordon, left, AgCenter researcher, explains sweet potato development to Stewart Higgins, director of raw products; Paul Williams, root crop buyer; and Mark Fields, kneeling, of Del Monte’s division in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Del Monte is one of the largest distributors and marketers of food products for the U.S. retail market. Company officials discussed their intent to refocus and intensify efforts on sweet potato production and processing and the need for cooperative research efforts to address varietal and production needs facing the canning sector. The group also visited Deshotel Farms in Bunkie.

“We welcome and are encouraged by the opportunity to work with Del Monte Foods Inc. to address sweet potato production issues and continue to contribute to the overall growth and sustainability of the sweet potato industry,” said Tara Smith, AgCenter Northeast Region director and coordinator of research at the station.

Group from Portugal visits Sweet Potato Station

A group from Portugal came to the Sweet Potato Research Station in Chase during July to tour the station and receive updates from the scientists on their research. The leader of the visiting group was Miguel Godinho, left, product manager for Heart Potato, a potato production company in Portugal. Second from left is Myrl Sistrunk, extension sweet potato specialist. Others in the photo, left to right, are Joao Sol and Jose Pereira, both from Portugal, and Tara Smith, AgCenter Northeast Region director and research coordinator at the station. Part of their itinerary was a trip to the ConAgra Lamb Weston Sweet Potato Processing Facility in Delhi. The group also toured the Black Gold Farms in Delhi as well as two other sweet potato operations. “We had a great interactive visit,” Smith said. “They heard updates from all of our research programs, and we learned about their operations as well.”


Two plant pathologists receive fellow awards

LSU AgCenter plant pathologists Raymond Schneider and Lawrence Datnoff were elected Fellows of the American Phytopathological Society and received their awards at the professional organization’s annual meeting in Tampa, Florida, in July.

Schneider is a professor who works in soybean pathology, concentrating on diseases such as soybean rust. He was the first to find rust in Louisiana in 2004, which was its first discovery in North America. The APS recognized Schneider as a research pioneer because he helped develop a better understanding of the biology and genetics of fungal diseases such as Fusarium oxysporum and Cercospora kikuchii and introduced novel ways to control root diseases. The society also recognized his commendable teaching career. Schneider has published extensively in the area of disease management in soybeans and other crops. Before coming to the AgCenter in 1984, he worked at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture in Ibadan, Nigeria, on a Ford Foundation Fellowship.

Datnoff is a professor and head of the Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology. In awarding Datnoff the fellow honor, the society cited his high-impact research on multiple crops and pathosystems and his pioneering use of silicon to improve plant health and suppress plant diseases. The society also noted that as department head, Datnoff has promoted and expanded the vision of graduate student education to go beyond traditional classroom and individual research activities. Datnoff has conducted research in Spain, Japan, Colombia and Brazil and has an extensive list of publications and academic distinctions.

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