In 1972, the LSU Board of Supervisors established the LSU AgCenter, requesting that agricultural activities have an identity separate from the existing campuses. For nearly 100 years prior, scientists in Louisiana were already developing innovations for agriculture, and extension agents blanketed the state to provide residents with educational information on agriculture. It is a proud history the LSU AgCenter was built upon, and in the past 50 years, the AgCenter has continued to innovate, educate and improve the lives of Louisiana citizens through research, extension and teaching.
Milestones since the AgCenter’s inception are many, but here are highlights from the past half-century.
The LSU AgCenter’s plant breeding program is one of the strongest in the nation providing high quality crops that can handle Louisiana’s tough climate but are also preferred by growers in other states. Varieties developed in the past 50 years by LSU AgCenter scientists, such as Clearfield rice, Beauregard sweet potato and the sugarcane variety LCP 85-384, were all game changers in their industries. For example while LCP 85-384 not longer dominates the sugarcane landscape, it changed the way producers harvest their crop and was a parent variety to successful varieties grown today.
Research by agronomists, entomologists, plant pathologists and weed scientists has allowed farmers to yield more while also lessening agriculture’s impact on the environment. Partnerships with growers in verification programs and in the demonstration and implementation of best management practices on model farms, such as the project fund by The Patrick F. Taylor Foundation, have led to advancements in production agriculture
Rice breeder Adam Famoso makes a cross with rice plants in his lab at the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station.
Raj Singh leads the Plant Diagnostic Center.
Master programs such as Master Farmer, Master Cattleman and Master Gardener have equipped participants with resources to implement best management practices, improve productivity and address environmental issues such as water quality and soil health. More than 4,000 people have participated in at least Phase I of Master Farmer and more than 350 farmers are certified. Louisiana has 3,5000 certified Master Gardeners. Other certification programs include pesticide certifications, agricultural prescribed burning certifications, livestock quality training, nursery landscape training and food science and food safety certifications.
The Plant Diagnostic Center was formed to solve plant health problems across the state. The center is a one-stop-shop for all plant health-related problems and provides an accurate and rapid diagnosis of plant health problems for Louisiana residents. It is supported by the Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology.
It Growing and Louisiana
Super Plant programs have helped gardening thrive. For more than two
decades, Louisiana gardeners have relied on Get It Growing, the multimedia educational
initiative designed to bring the latest lawn and home gardening information to
the public. Louisiana Super Plants, an educational and marketing campaign that
highlights tough and beautiful plants that perform well in Louisiana landscapes,
helps gardeners choose plants that have a proven track record having gone
through several years of university evaluations and observations.
Studies of insects and birds found along the coast have been used as bioindicators of climate change and coastal land health. When combined with plant inventories and land mass surveys, invertebrate surveys will likely be indicators of future population trends of commercially important invertebrates like shrimp as well as vertebrates dependent upon tidal marsh estuaries.
Invasive species management has helped safeguard natural resources. Non-native species are invasive cause an estimated $120 billion in damage in the United States each year. In a 2009 U.S. Department of Agriculture report ranking the relative risk exotic pests pose to the 50 states, Louisiana was ranked ninth. Within the past 12 years alone, 33 new invasive plant pest species have been detected in Louisiana. Realizing the threats to the Louisiana economy and ecosystem, LSU AgCenter scientists conduct research and extension programs aimed at prevention, control and eradication of invasive species.
The development of wood composites has led to the use of wood in nontraditional applications such as Tiger Bullets.
Scientists have unlocked a deeper understanding of insect physiology which can control the devastating impacts of some insects while helping beneficial insects survive.
Graduate students working in Rodrigo Diaz’s lab searched the Gulf Coast for evidence of an invasive insect, the roseau cane scale, in the fall of both 2021 and 2022.
Gaye Sandoz serves as the director of the Food Innovation Institute.
Sharman Charles, EFNEP program director with the LSU AgCenter, discusses the history of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program in New Orleans.
The AgCenter experienced an evolution in its efforts for health and wellbeing. Home economics morphed into family and consumer sciences, which eventually zeroed in on nutrition and food sciences as the main focus.
The Healthy Communities program has broken down barriers to positive health outcomes in rural communities. The program focuses on making policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) changes that will result in long-term, sustainable solutions to health challenges that our communities face.
Food innovation institute has launched dozens of companies and is providing a space for research on food safety and sustainability.
LaHouse Home and Landscape Resource Center has reshaped how Louisiana residents can build resilient, healthy and efficient homes and recover from natural disasters. Housing professionals can participate in LaHouse-led seminars and certification trainings and homeowners can find certified professionals to help with home projects.
Nutrition education programs such as Dining with Diabetes and Break up with Salt have shown individuals how to manage potentially chronic illnesses. Participants have called the classes “a lifesaver,” citing lowered blood pressure, weight loss and improved physical abilities.
The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, the nation’s first nutrition education program for low-income residents, has used a hands-on approach to teach participants how to make behavioral changes and improve the nutritional quality of their meals. The program arose out of a societal concern for the millions of Americans who were facing poverty, hunger and food insecurity and places on an emphasis on assisting parents and other adult caregivers who have the primary responsibility for feeding young children. It also offers specialized programs for moms-to-be, new parents and youth between the ages of 5 and 19.
4-H has stayed true to its roots while expanding its reach. As agriculture evolved, so has the emphasis on STEM in 4-H youth development.
Character education brought about a new way to help form responsible youth in 4-H. The six pillars of character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship was woven into 4-H curriculum and helped guide 4-H’er to be positive and contributing members of society.
The Louisiana 4-H State Leadership boards gave teens the opportunity to grow and polish skills by assisting with the development of educational programs that provide opportunities for advocacy, leadership, and youth voice on a statewide level.
Improvements to Camp Grant Walker have made the facility accessible to more youth. The facility has expanded to offer off-season programing, educational seminars and camps throughout the year.
The Louisiana 4-H Foundation was established to help sustain the thriving youth development program. The Foundation holds permanent endowments for scholarships and for the enhancement of the Louisiana 4-H youth development program. Through its work the 4-H Foundation is helping to develop youth and build a legacy of leaders for Louisiana.
Louisiana 4-H Citizenship Board