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Harrell to replace Saichuk as state rice specialist

Dustin Harrell, LSU AgCenter agronomist, has been selected to become the next Louisiana rice extension specialist. He will start the new job in January 2015 with the retirement of the existing rice specialist, Johnny Saichuk.

“Dustin will maintain a research program at the station in addition to taking on the additional responsibility of the extension education program for the rice industry in Louisiana,” said Steve Linscombe, director of the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station.
Linscombe said a doctorate-level scientist will be hired to assist Harrell in agronomy research.

The verification program that Saichuk conducted across the state will continue, Linscombe said. Under the program, the rice specialist works with a few farmers each year on fields in south and north Louisiana rice-growing areas, monitoring the crop closely from planting until harvest.

Linscombe said Harrell is “probably the best pure soil scientist we have had in that position in many years. He’s done a lot of ground-breaking research to enhance productivity of both the first and second rice crops.”

“Through the years, I’ve really looked up to Dr. Saichuk, and he’s taught me a lot,” Harrell said. “I know I have very big shoes to fill.”

Saichuk said he’s satisfied that he’s retiring with the Harrell as the new rice specialist. “He’s got all the tools he needs to do a good job. He’s probably ahead of me when I started this job.” ? 

Three AgCenter projects among first to get LIFT grants
Three AgCenter projects were among the 15 selected to receive the first round of LSU LIFT grants, which totaled $500,000 across five of the campuses in the LSU System. LIFT stands for Leverage Innovation for Technology Transfer, and the grants are for developing proof for advancements that could lead to viable products or businesses.

Jeff Beasley, associate professor in the School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences, received $20,504. The grant will be used to integrate wireless sensor technology to simplify a new LSU irrigation and leaching control system designed to reduce irrigation consumption and potential nutrient leaching during nursery plant production. This technology will have the ability to help people in the ornamental industry better manage irrigation water resources. The others with him on the project are Ed Bush, also an associate professor in the school; Steve Hall, associate professor, Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering; and Stacia Davis, assistant professor at the Red River Research Station

Todd Shupe professor in the School of Renewable Natural Resources, received $39,844, which will be used for a project to reclaim preservatives and recycle treated wood to produce raw materials for sprayfoam insulation. Others on the project are Rich Vlosky, also a professor in the school, and Jim Richardson, a professor in the LSU Department of Economics.

Julie Anderson Lively, assistant professor in the School of Renewable Natural Resources and Louisiana Sea Grant, received $13,619 for developing a cost-effective blue crab bait from local seafood industry waste. ?

4-H Food and Fitness Board learns about careers
The 24 members of the Louisiana 4-H Food and Fitness Board held their summer meeting in Baton Rouge July 15-17, where they were able to get some hands-on experience and career information from food industry representatives, said LSU AgCenter 4-H regional coordinator Lanette Hebert.

Their three-day visit included trips to the LSU AgCenter Food Incubator, Pennington Biomedical Research Center and Triumph Kitchen, a nonprofit organization that works with at-risk youth to teach them skills for work in the hospitality industry.

Many of the board’s activities are funded through a $60,000 National 4-H Wal-Mart Foundation grant, said Lanette Hebert, 4-H regional coordinator. Board members are responsible for the 4-H nutrition and fitness efforts in their parishes. ?

Marsh Maneuvers teaches 4-H’ers about coast for 25 years

The Marsh Maneuvers 4-H summer camp is in its 25th year of teaching students about the ecology, anthropology, geology and hydrology of coastal Louisiana.

For four weeks in July, 4-H students from different parishes attend a five-day camp at Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge to learn about the coastal environment and its precarious future.

On each Thursday of the camp, students plant marsh grass along Bayou Petit Anse near Avery Island. Even though they have to trudge through mud and silty water, it’s evident from the smiles on their muddy faces that they enjoy the experience.

Aleshia Mitcham, a freshman from Union Parish, said she surprised herself by enjoying planting marsh grass in mud and water. “It wasn’t bad. It was really fun. Every step, it got funner,” she said.

Mitcham will be relating what she learned at the camp to her classmates back home. “I’ll tell them about coastal erosion and what they can do to stop it.”

Ranna Robinson, a student at Algiers Technical Academy in Orleans Parish, said her favorite part of the camp was catching fish and crabs, but she was enjoying her own personal discovery of the marsh.

“We’re learning all kinds of things we never knew,” she said.

Robinson said she is eager to tell fellow classmates about the experience. “I’m going to tell them I had an awesome time at 4-H camp.”

Mark Shirley, LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant coastal resource specialist, has been conducting Marsh Maneuvers since it started. With funding help from the Youth Wetlands Program, Shirley conducts the classes and handson demonstrations. When he isn’t talking about the coast, he’s starting a game of volleyball or a spirited game of charades.

On Bayou Petit Anse, Shirley showed the students a canal dug decades ago where thick marsh grass was growing.

“Thanks to a bunch of kids like you, an unprotected shoreline is now restored,”

Shirley told the group. Shirley said Marsh Maneuvers first started as a summer camp experience only for Vermilion Parish 4-H junior leaders. “Then other parishes heard about it, and they wanted to do it,” he said.

The camp began at Grand Terre near Grand Isle at a Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries camp, which eventually became too dilapidated to use.

Marsh Maneuvers relocated west to Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in 2004. Hurricane Rita hit the next year and damaged the facilities at Rockefeller, but repairs were made that allowed students to attend Marsh Maneuvers there in 2006, and the storm’s aftermath provided a learning experience for the camp, Shirley said.

The Chenier Plains region, where Rockefeller Refuge is, differs considerably from Grand Terre, Shirley said. The current location provides more opportunity to see marsh in the freshwater, brackish and saltwater areas.

Students get a comprehensive overview of the coastal ecology, and they learn the marsh’s role in producing seafood and serving as a storm buffer and wildlife habitat. Shirley said the Marsh Maneuvers lessons also include information on the importance of the coast to oil and gas production and how different ethnicities have adapted to the coastal environment.

He estimates 1,600 students have gone through Marsh Maneuvers. Some of the earlier participants now have children who are now going through it, Shirley said.

He said because of Marsh Maneuvers, some former students went into careers in related fields such as biology and ecology.

For example, Twyla Harrington became a Louisiana Sea Grant agent, and Anna Normand is getting her doctorate degree in wetlands soil chemistry, Shirley said.

But even students who end up working in a non-related profession will benefit from what they experienced, Shirley said. “They will have an appreciation for the coast, and that carries on for the rest of their lives. We’re trying to create citizens who are aware of the coastal dilemma and what is occurring here.” ?

These articles were published in the summer 2014 issue of Louisiana Agriculture Magazine.

9/10/2014 6:35:55 PM
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