AgCenter News for Winter 2018

Linda Benedict  |  3/16/2018 3:57:05 PM

Invasive snail discovered in Louisiana crawfish pond

An invasive species of snail, called the apple snail, has forced a farmer in Acadia Parish to shut down his crawfish harvest on a 220-acre field. The pest, which has a big appetite for vegetation, clogs crawfish trap openings.

Dustin Harrell, LSU AgCenter rice specialist, said the farmer was collecting six to 12 crates full of the snails each day of harvest. The snails were blocking the crawfish traps and complicating the harvest so much that the farmer chose to pull his traps out of the field in late January.

Harrell said it’s suspected that the snails entered the field when it was flooded with water from a bayou that flows into the Mermentau River. He said flooding in 2016 probably pushed water out of the Mermentau where the snail has been found for several years.

Harrell said no chemical is labeled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to kill the pest in Louisiana.

Mark Shirley, AgCenter fisheries agent, said the snails have been found in Bayou Vermilion in ever-increasing numbers for the past two to three years. They eat the vegetation that crawfish use for food, and they could also eat rice plants. Because they are an invasive species, it is illegal to collect, sell or transport them, he said. Read the full story. Bruce Schultz


Timber workshop helps unravel taxes

Knowing how the timber industry operates is vital for timber landowners trying to navigate complicated and constantly changing tax laws, said USDA Forest Service national timber tax specialist Linda Wang at the Tax Issues for Forest Landowners seminar held Feb. 9 in Ruston. The LSU AgCenter partnered with Louisiana Tech University to sponsor the workshop.

The workshop covered general tax terms and classifications, eligible deductions and cost share payments, record-keeping and reporting income, casualty lost and theft, and calculating timber basis and forest planting cost deductions. “Tax issues are consistently one of the top concerns for private forest owners,” Wang said.

Timber is a long-term investment without annual income to offset costs, and many small landowners are unaware that most timber sales qualify for long-term capital gains, which offer a more favorable tax rate than ordinary income rates, she said.

AgCenter forest economist Shaun Tanger said smaller timber landowners have more tax advantages if they classify as investors who grow timber for profit rather than as personal use property owners. Organizing and managing forest property in tracts or blocks improves record-keeping and can be important in determining loss of timber assets from casualty, theft or condemnation.

Separating different types of timber land into tracts may be worthwhile, but more blocks means more paperwork. “Casualty loss is pretty common in Louisiana,” Tanger said, citing catastrophic events such as hurricanes and floods. Read the full story. Karol Osborne


Cover crops offer benefits

In a field just north of the Rapides-Avoyelles parish line, a 45-acre plot that once grew sugarcane is now covered in Austrian winter peas, vetch and tillage radishes. These three cover crops are part of a study being conducted by LSU AgCenter researchers with cooperation from area farmers.

While cover crops are not new, there is renewed interest in the potential benefits these crops can provide, said AgCenter area agent Donna Morgan. She is working with Will Bain, a sugarcane, soybean and rice farmer, who farms in both Rapides and Avoyelles parishes. This is the second year for Bain to experiment with cover crops.

“I am interested in cover crops for two reasons,” Bain said. “The first reason is to add organic matter to the soil and improve soil fertility. Another reason is to reduce soil erosion.”

Cover crops are not grown to be harvested, but Morgan said farmers still must employ management strategies commonly found in crops grown for income. Most cover crops are terminated with a chemical spray, usually four to six weeks prior to planting the cash crop. Morgan recommends planting a cover crop as soon as possible after harvest in order to get the most benefit.

“If you wait too long, by the time the cover crop germinates and gets established, it may be out there only for two or three months before you have to terminate it,” Morgan said.

Bain’s situation is somewhat different. He does not plan to plant sugarcane where his cover crops are until August. This extended time will allow his cover crop to mature longer, and he hopes this will help increase the organic matter in his soil. He plans on spraying it in May and begin working his land in June to get ready for sugarcane planting. Read the full story. Craig Gautreaux

Youths earn skills awards at Livestock Show

Six Louisiana youths were recognized at the LSU AgCenter State Livestock Show Feb. 11-17 for their knowledge, skills and communication abilities as they were named winners of the Gerry Lane Premier Exhibitor Award at the 83rd annual LSU AgCenter Livestock Show at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center. From left, Saundra Lane, representing Gerry Lane Enterprises; Breann Keowen, of West Parish Rouge Parish; Maggie Brian, of East Feliciana Parish; Luke Seguin, of Livingston Parish; Maci Schexnayder, of Ascension Parish; Paycen Brouillette, of West Feliciana Parish; Ethan Coker, of Claiborne Parish; and LSU Vice President for Agriculture Bill Richardson. The winning youths were among 30 finalists and many other contestants in the program, which recognizes outstanding livestock exhibitors in six categories: beef cattle, dairy cattle, poultry, sheep, goats and swine. Read the full story. Rick Bogren


Better varieties highlight annual rice meetings

Much of the attention at this year’s annual rice meetings in January was on Provisia rice and its companion herbicide of the same name. AgCenter rice breeder Adam Famoso, above at a meeting in Abbeville, said work is underway to develop improved Provisia varieties. A new line, PVL08, has an improved yield in both the first and second crop compared with the first line released as a variety, PVL01.

Getting a new conventional long-grain variety is a priority of the breeding program, he said. The hybrid breeding program has several promising lines, and increasing and testing a number of hybrids are priorities.

The new Clearfield Jazzman variety to be released this year has higher yield potential with excellent grain quality, including low chalk, Famoso said.

Kellogg recently tested the variety CL272 with favorable results for use in the company’s products, but more tests are required.

AgCenter agronomist and extension rice specialist Dustin Harrell said Provisia will help return some rice acreage to production after being plagued with Clearfield-resistant rice. Provisia has the distinction of having a lighter green color, regardless of the amount of nitrogen fertilizer used. Nitrogen in the range of 150-180 pounds per acre will be needed, Harrell said.

AgCenter weed scientist Eric Webster said the Provisia herbicide will be the best grass herbicide for rice. It can cause slight injury to young rice, especially if the application is followed by cloudy conditions, but the crop will recover.

He cautioned farmers about tank-mixing other herbicides with Provisia, recommending against Grasp and Regiment. The Provisia herbicide, if tank-mixed with another herbicide, should be applied immediately, and a good-quality crop oil is recommended, he said.

Provisia use should be limited to fields with bad herbicide-resistant problems. “I would put it on my worst fields,” Webster said. Read the full story. Bruce Schultz


Workshops highlight soil health research

Current soil health initiatives involve more intensive management and reflect more environmentally suitable systems than those in the 1990s, LSU AgCenter associate vice president Rogers Leonard told producers attending recent cover crop and soil health field days.

Two workshops set in the northeast Louisiana as part of a federal initiative to highlight soil health research efforts were sponsored by the LSU AgCenter, the Louisiana Master Farmer Program, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.

The first workshop was Feb. 7 at the Scott Research and Education Center in Winnsboro, followed by a Feb. 13 event at the Northeast Research Station in St. Joseph.

Steve Nipper, NRCS water quality specialist, said cover crop selection depends on many variables, the most important being the cash crop that follows termination. “Treat the cover crop as you would the cash crop for spring planting,” Nipper said.

Growers should have a clear goal in mind and consider termination requirements when making cover crop selections, especially when selecting cover crop mixes, he said. “Always start with a small grain if using a mix and know what will be needed to take it out,” Nipper said.

AgCenter agronomist Josh Copes said most farmers plant cover crops by broadcasting seed, but direct drill planting provides a more uniform stand.

“One drawback to grower adoption of winter cover crops can be the cost of establishment,” Copes said, adding that planting methods that don’t require additional passes across the field are being explored.

Cereal rye and tillage radishes have been most effective in reducing weed density, but the radishes can be difficult to terminate if allowed to flower, he said.

AgCenter soil microbiologist Lisa Fultz said cover crops show potential for recuperating nitrogen in the soil so it can be available for cash crops. Increasing biomass and plant residue at the soil surface and minimizing soil disturbance increases the numbers and types of soil organisms that break down and incorporate organic matter into the soil. Grass and legume species, such as cereal rye and winter peas, yield greater increases in available nitrogen following corn compared to tillage radishes and a cereal rye-radish mix, she said. Read the full story. Karol Osborne

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