(04/01/20) BATON ROUGE, La. — Having to work from home comes with challenges. But farmers are still busy in their workplace: fields, pastures and ponds.
To help farmers produce a successful crop, LSU AgCenter agents are using many delivery methods to disseminate needed information.
Dennis Burns, agriculture and natural resource agent for Concordia, Tensas and Catahoula parishes, is taking advantage of a vast array of tools. He is working with AgCenter agents Kylie Miller and R.L. Frazier in producing a weekly podcast focusing on crop issues in northeast Louisiana.
“It’s called the Louisiana Delta Crop Report,” Burns said. “This is our second year to do it.”
Burns said they released an episode on March 30 that focused on replanting corn. It was a subject chosen because the agents had been receiving calls on it.
The podcast features AgCenter researchers who study areas such as weed science, entomology and crop diseases.
Burns said nearly 100 people subscribe to the podcast, and he has encountered growers who listen to the podcast when he meets with them.
“They’ll tell me, ‘I was just listening to you,’ ” Burns said.
Dustin Harrell, AgCenter state rice specialist, is a big proponent of using smartphone technology. First, he receives phone calls from growers and consultants on issues such as fertilization and variety recommendations.
He also incorporates text messaging into to his outreach efforts. He has a Louisiana rice text message group consisting of nearly 350 individuals. Harrell can use this group to distribute information quickly if a hot issue arises.
Harrell said he used the text message group recently to alert producers of a problem with the invasive apple snail. For the first time in Louisiana, it was documented that the snails were responsible for severely damaging a young stand of rice.
“We also alerted growers that cutworms had clipped a rice stand in Avoyelles Parish,” Harrell said.
Harrell also puts together a newsletter called Louisiana Rice Notes. The newsletter does not have a regularly scheduled release date; rather, Harrell said, it is issue-driven.
“It’s a seasonal newsletter, but when a major issue arrives, I will release an issue focused on how growers can manage that issue,” Harrell said.
Jeremy Hebert, an agricultural and natural resource agent with rice responsibilities in southwest Louisiana, has taken to using Zoom, a software that allows users to interact through web conferencing.
“I did a Zoom conference with two growers and a crop consultant to discuss seeding rates,” Hebert said. “It got the information out that was needed by them.”
Hebert estimates he is fielding anywhere between 15 and 20 phone calls a day on crop and homeowner horticulture issues.
“It’s a busy time for crops and vegetables,” he said.
The AgCenter has other informational efforts aimed for the general public.
AgCenter personnel are also being featured in videos found on YouTube and Facebook. Chris Dunaway, horticulture agent in St. Charles Parish, showed how to properly prune a citrus tree. Anna Timmerman, horticulture agent in Jefferson Parish, is posting daily tips for homeowners on the GNO Gardening Facebook page.
The LSU AgCenter Facebook page is hosting “LIVE at FIVE” sessions. These Facebook Live broadcasts hosted by AgCenter social media strategist Anna Ribbeck allow viewers to ask questions of AgCenter specialists. Recent sessions have focused on horticulture and wildlife topics. Times and dates for the broadcasts are pinned at the top of the AgCenter Facebook page. The broadcasts start at 5 p.m.
For school-aged children, 4-H agents are posting a “virtual recess” activity every day that includes a lesson on topics such as math and science. This resource can be accessed at lsuagcenter.com.
Dennis Burns, LSU AgCenter agriculture and natural resource agent for Catahoula, Concordia and Tensas parishes, speaks at an AgCenter field day. Because of the stay-at-home orders from Gov. John Bel Edwards, AgCenter agents are coming up with creative ways to get vital information needed by the state’s citizens. Photo by Karol Osborne/LSU AgCenter
LSU AgCenter agriculture and natural resource agent Keith Hawkins examines a tree with tree farmer George Giltner at an experimental hardwood stand. AgCenter agents are still available to answer the public’s questions through electronic means. Check the lsuagcenter.com website for your parish’s contact information. Photo by Bruce Schultz/LSU AgCenter