Tobie Blanchard | 12/22/2017 4:10:41 PM
(12/22/17) BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU AgCenter agronomy, horticulture, forestry and animal agents from across Louisiana met during the AgCenter annual conference on the LSU campus on Dec. 13 for training and information.
At the agronomy session, AgCenter experts taught the basics of soil fertility. It was the beginning of a series of classes designed to refresh agriculture and natural resource agents on the foundational aspects of agricultural production.
“In this restructuring, we have fewer people to do things, so it’s kind of an organized effort to make sure people are equipped with the educational tools they need,” said Dan Fromme, a corn, cotton and grain sorghum specialist at the AgCenter Dean Lee Research and Extension Center in Alexandria.
Fromme taught an overview of how nutrients move in the soil and in plants. Earlier in the session, Dustin Harrell, a rice specialist at the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station in Crowley, discussed which nutrients are most needed by the row crops commonly grown in Louisiana.
Harrell stressed the importance of soil testing so producers know which nutrients their crops need. Testing can prevent the overuse of certain nutrients that negatively affect crops and the environment and cost more money, he said.
“As far as row crop production is concerned, soil fertility is probably the beginning or the backbone of being profitable,” Fromme said. “Everything in row crop production starts with soil fertility. We have started this in-focus agent training. This is step one. Then we will build up into different production aspects. Starting from there it’s probably the most important.”
The horticulture meeting included demonstrations on grafting tomatoes and a workshop on soil sampling and interpretation. The agents also toured the soil and plant testing laboratory.
Participants also heard about the MarketMaker, Market Ready, Farm to School and Harvest of the Month programs.
The forestry session focused on changes in territory and responsibilities for agents and topics for future meetings aimed at the forest industry and landowners.
Shaun Tanger, LSU AgCenter forestry economist, said the group is evaluating needs from the forestry industry on state and regional levels.
“This was a chance for us to better coordinate what everyone is doing from a labor and funding standpoint,” he said.
Animal agents participated in a beef quality assurance training, which aims to maximize consumer confidence and acceptance of beef by focusing producer attention on daily production practices that influence the safety, wholesomeness and quality of beef and beef products.
Dr. Christine Navarre, AgCenter veterinarian and state coordinator of the Beef Quality Assurance program, presented the training, which stressed safety and quality.
“We need to be aware of what could go wrong and how to prevent it from happening,” Navarre said.
Navarre also talked about the importance of good nutrition in beef cattle.
“Many of the calls we get about diseases are because of poor nutrition,” she said.
Craig Roussel, retired horticulture agent, has returned to the AgCenter to help mentor new agents. He spoke with the groups about the mentoring program. Roussel said he and three other mentors will work with agents on program planning, assessing impacts and measuring outcomes.