Carrie Mendoza, Savoie, Kevin A., Chaney, John A., Morgan, Donna S., Schultz, Bruce
LAKE CHARLES – More than 100 farmers and industry leaders participated in a Master Farmer Model Farm Field Day and Forage Tour Tuesday (April 19) – to see conservation practices being followed by leading producers.
"This is the first of 12 Model Farm tours to be conducted in the state and our first group of Master Farmer and Master Cattle Producer participants to be certified in Phase 2 of the program," said Carrie Mendoza, LSU AgCenter coordinator of the Master Farmer Program.
She summarized the model farms concept by saying some producers are implementing conservation practices and showing those off so others can learn which practices they can implement in their own operations to ultimately improve water quality.
The day provided farmers with a look at forage plots, GIS technology, grazing systems and specific practices that address water quality issues in cattle and forage operations. This completed Phase 2 of the Master Farmer Program – the in-field viewing of commodity-specific best management practices – for those producers in the Calcasieu watershed who had enrolled in the program. From there, the third phase toward becoming certified as Master Farmers requires the participants to develop and implement a conservation plan for their farms.
The model farm tour this week was conducted south of Lake Charles on Jim Dupont’s farm, which includes 320 head of cattle and a total of 1,800 acres.
Stuart Gardner, grazing lands specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, discussed the comprehensive conservation plan that NRCS has helped develop for the Dupont Farm. The Dupont farm plan identifies potential sources of pollution from the farming operation and describes conservation practices that Dupont is implementing to minimize any negative environmental effects.
In completing the final phase of the Master Farmer Program requirements, participants contact the NRCS for assistance in developing comprehensive conservation plans for their farming operations and in implementing necessary conservation practices. The NRCS works with the farm owners to identify possible sources of USDA conservation program financial assistance to implement the practices that are needed.
At Dupont’s model farm, LSU AgCenter experts also discussed some of the conservation measures that had been implemented.
"We have installed water quality monitoring units in the three main drains of a 40-acre pasture to determine how much and what kind of contaminants are in the water as it comes off the pasture," said Donna Morgan, extension associate with the LSU AgCenter’s Master Farmer program.
These monitoring systems help collect information on nutrient runoff, soil sediment and biological oxygen demand in the water as it drains from the pasture. Plans are to collect this information for two years on each of the model farms.
Dupont said he submitted his farm for consideration as a model farm because he was curious to see if he has been applying too much fertilizer, and he knew that the monitoring units could provide that information.
"I wanted to see how much (fertilizer) is leaving the ground and ending up in the ditches," he said.
Collecting this information and continually monitoring the water as it leaves the pasture will help farmers, like Dupont, measure the difference in water quality as they implement conservation practices on their farms.
"The water from this pasture drains into Black Bayou," said Kevin Savoie, an LSU AgCenter watershed agent assigned to the area, explaining the bayou is an "impaired waterway" that drains into streams important to the fishing industry.
Savoie said if several farms in the area will voluntarily alter their practices, water quality in Black Bayou may improve.
"Precision leveling and installing drainage in this pasture are the best practices I have done on this farm," Dupont said.
He also said using Global Positioning System technology improves the efficiency of applying fertilizer and herbicides and insecticides.
Ronald Habetz of Ragley, a cattle producer with 50 head of cattle, said the day was well spent.
"You always learn something at these field days," he said. "I learned a lot about forage."
Cattle producer Russell Savoie of Creole said he enrolled in the program to find out how to implement the best management practices.
"I’m doing it now to be ahead of the game," Savoie said. "It’s voluntary now, but eventually it will be mandatory."
Cattle producer Pierre Johnson of Jefferson Davis Parish said he was interested in the program by the Natural Resources Conservation Service to restore native grasses to pasturelands.
The Master Farmer program is a collaboration that includes the LSU AgCenter, NRCS, USDA, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Louisiana Department of Natural Resources and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Industry partners include the Louisiana Soybean Association, Louisiana Cattlemen’s Association, Louisiana Rice Growers Association, Louisiana Farm Bureau, American Sugarcane League, National Association of Conservation Districts and the Potash and Phosphate Institute.
Carrie Mendoza at (225) 578-2906 or email@example.com
Kevin Savoie at (337) 263-2880 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Donna Morgan at (318) 473-6521 or email@example.com
John Chaney at (318) 473-6589 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Bruce Schultz at (337) 296-5257 or email@example.com