Sibling rivalry: Two new varieties the focus of sugarcane field day

(07/26/22) ST. GABRIEL, La. — Two newly released sugarcane varieties with a familial breeding history were the focus of the 39th annual LSU AgCenter sugarcane field day in St. Gabriel. The two have the same parents, making them siblings — a first for the Louisiana sugarcane breeding program.

In addition to the variety releases, attendees of the July 20 event braved an 88-degree, 9 a.m. kickoff to hear the latest on weed control, molecular breeding, entomology, diseases and billet planting.

The new varieties, L 15-306 and HoL 15-508, have different traits that make each desirable to planters. Both have high sugar content, with the latter being a little sweeter, according to AgCenter Sugar Research Station breeder Michael Pontif. The differences lie primarily in disease vulnerability.

“It is susceptible to brown rust, possibly a little to leaf scald and smut and to the borer because it is so sweet” he said of HoL 15-508. “So not quite as strong a disease package, but very good sugar and tonnage.”

L 15-306 is a bit taller, so Pontif calls it HoL 15-508’s “big brother.” The researcher praised L 15-306’s sugar content, saying it was equal to or better than that of L 01-299, which currently dominates total Louisiana sugarcane acreage at 58%. The variety also has good tonnage and is more resistant to smut, rust, leaf scald and mosaic virus than its sibling.

Pontif’s fellow breeder at the Sugar Research Station, Collins Kimbeng, said developing new sugarcane varieties takes patience.

“It takes about 12 years to gather the information that we need to be confident enough to recommend the varieties to Louisiana growers,” he said. “The earlier stages are more difficult than the latter stages because in the latter stages, we already have a feeling about the variety and we’re just collecting more data to solidify what we already know. The earlier stages are when we have more genetic data to choose from and there are more chances for committing errors.”

After the introduction to the new varieties, attendees were treated to a drone herbicide application demonstration by AgCenter weed scientist Al Orgeron followed by a discussion of molecular breeding from Niranjan Baisakh from the AgCenter School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences.

On the next stop, AgCenter entomologist Blake Wilson spoke on new insecticides to manage wireworm infestations. He said last year he obtained IR-4 funding from the USDA to conduct the trials needed to obtain new registrations for insecticides that may not appeal to large enough markets for the chemical industry to pursue.

Wilson went on to say that his team has been capturing field-collected wireworm larvae using corn baits buried beneath the ground. They’ve set up infested and uninfested controls as well as infested plots sprayed with insecticide treatments.

“What we’ve seen is the newer insecticides did effectively protect plant stands while our infested unsprayed controls had reduced plant stands in the fall and spring of around 30%,” he said. “However, our most recent counts indicate that the sugarcane was able to tiller sufficiently to level out the differences by mid-summer.”

Wilson said he hopes to repeat the studies, increasing the infestation levels even higher to produce the “really devastating effects” that have been seen in rare cases in commercial fields as well as conducting research over a number of years and in different soil types to get a better understanding of how the new chemistries might be better utilized in the industry.

“I’m confident that this will result in registration of some newer products for wireworm control after a couple of years,” Wilson said.

The final outdoor stop was a presentation on disease issues from AgCenter plant pathologist Jeff Hoy and billet planting from Herman Waguespack, director of research for the American Sugar Cane League.

The field day concluded inside with updates from Luke Laborde, the current interim LSU vice president for agriculture and dean of the College of Agriculture; Matt Lee, who will take over those roles Aug. 1; Jim Simon, general manager of the American Sugar Cane League; and Mike Strain, commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.

Collins Kimbeng.l

LSU AgCenter sugarcane breeder Collins Kimbeng gives a report on two new varieties released this year, L 15-306 and HoL 15-508, at the 39th annual sugarcane field day held July 20 at the Sugar Research Station in St. Gabriel. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

Wire Worm Larvae.

A sample of wireworm larvae collected by LSU AgCenter entomologist Blake Wilson was shown to attendees of the 39th annual sugarcane field day held July 20 at the Sugar Research Station in St. Gabriel. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

Trailer riders.

Attendees braved sweltering midday heat to learn the latest on sugarcane research at the 39th annual LSU AgCenter sugarcane field day held July 20 at the Sugar Research Station in St. Gabriel. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

7/26/2022 2:08:15 PM
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