Linda Benedict, Chaney, John A., Lanclos, David Y.
ALEXANDRIA – The LSU AgCenter is expanding a successful crop demonstration program again this year. The program provides farmers with useful information that can help them decide which crop varieties to plant.
This year 69 demonstrations based on the LSU AgCenter’s list of recommended milo, corn and soybean varieties are being planted in 23 parishes across the state. Last year 43 locations were planted as part of the program, but its success led to further expansion of what experts say is one of the most extensive crop demonstration programs in the country.
LSU AgCenter experts say the expanded number of demonstration fields gives farmers across Louisiana more information and more chances to observe the performance of the recommended varieties in fields close to their own. That, in turn, helps the select the varieties most likely to meet their needs.
"This is a giant step for our crop demonstration program in the state," said LSU AgCenter soybean, corn and grain sorghum specialist Dr. David Lanclos. "We are planting replicated variety trials in large plots throughout the state."
These varieties/hybrids involved in the demonstrations are replicated at sites across the state and checked frequently by LSU AgCenter county agents and research associates in cooperation with other AgCenter faculty members and specialists. Some of the demonstrations are planted on fields at LSU AgCenter research stations, but most are planted on fields owned by individual farmers who cooperate in the program.
"The selection of a variety to plant is one of the most important production decisions a farmer makes in producing a crop, and it is often one that is overlooked," Lanclos said.
In making variety selections, experts recommend that farmers consult professionals including LSU AgCenter county agents and agribusiness personnel, study production data, consider the soil type and determine the resistance of the variety to insects, diseases and herbicides.
The experts also stress selecting a variety to plant is one of the few decisions farmers make about a crop without being forced to react to elements outside their control – such as weather, prices, insect problems, diseases and many other environmental issues.
"This is an excellent program," said Charles Canatella, president of the Louisiana Soybean Association, who farmers 1,500 acres of soybeans in St. Landry Parish. The program shows farmers can increase yields by selecting the best variety for their farm and following the LSU AgCenter recommendations, he added.
The cooperation of county agents, seed dealers, researchers and farmers allowed the demonstration program to continue to expand, Lanclos said, and the expansion means the program can supply farmers with data collected from more sites near their farms.
"The response by farmers has been outstanding," said LSU AgCenter county agent Keith Collins in Richland Parish, adding that the data collected from the large plots on different farms yields good information about soil types and cultural practices under different farming methods.
These demonstration plots are readily accepted by farmers and industry leaders, because they are larger than traditional research plots and are planted on commercial farms throughout the state, experts say.
The core blocks planted in the state this year as part of the demonstration will consist of six hybrids of grain sorghum, 22 of corn and 41 varieties of soybeans. The core blocks of each crop will be planted in random order in different parishes located throughout the grain-producing areas of the state.
"We only plant varieties/hybrids in these replicated core blocks that make the LSU AgCenter recommended list," Lanclos said. "And the recommended varieties have been extensively tested at research stations in the state for a minimum of two years."
Since the varieties in a core block are replicated over a number of locations, the data can be analyzed with statistical validity and then grouped by soil type, planting date, row spacing, plant population, irrigation, region of the state and other cultural practices, experts point out.
Although providing farmers with information on which crop varieties perform best on farms in various areas of the state is the major focus of the program, officials also say a side benefit this year could be early recognition of Asian soybean rust if it shows up in the state again. These crops will be closely monitored by LSU AgCenter county agents and other faculty members – as will sentinel plots across the state that are designed to help spot soybean rust anywhere it might occur.
Participants in the on-farm variety research trials this year include farmers in the parishes of Acadia, Avoyelles, Beauregard, Caddo, Calcasieu, Caldwell, Catahoula, Concordia, East Carroll, Evangeline, Franklin, Iberia, Jefferson Davis, Madison, Morehouse, Ouachita, Red River, Point Coupee, Rapides, Richland, St. Landry, Tensas and West Carroll.
"This demonstration program is a win-win situation for farmers," Lanclos said. "Farmers can look at these varieties or hybrids planted side-by-side in large plots near their farms and use the data to select the varieties to plant on their farm."
In 2004, the production of soybeans and other feed grain crops returned nearly $450 million dollars to the state’s economy, according to the Louisiana Summary of Agriculture and Forestry published by the LSU AgCenter.
For more information on agricultural production and a variety of other topics ranging from nutrition to economic development, visit www.lsuagcenter.com.