(11/23/20) BATON ROUGE, La. — An LSU AgCenter agronomist and an entomologist have been awarded U.S. Department of Agriculture crop protection and pest management grants to conduct their research.
“The overarching goal of this project is to define how climate, soil and management influence cover crop performance and the subsequent impact on weed suppression and crop yield,” she said. “By integrating technology, remote sensing and machine learning, we will develop the knowledge layers necessary for integrating cover crops into a precision weed control framework.”
This study builds onto a larger precision sustainable agriculture on-farm network of research by adding a weeds component to it.
“We will also build a think tank of on-farm trial farmers to provide feedback,” she said. “The goal of the modelling is to improve the utility of decision support tools currently under development.”
The tools are an interactive process that supports and improves the decision-making process of its users.
“We will have a total of about 30 different locations around the U.S., which will also include research stations, and on four farms in Louisiana,” she said. “Here, we will be using cereal rye in our research.”
The second grant project, which focuses on sweet potato weevils, will be headed up by AgCenter entomologist Jeff Davis.
The sweet potato weevil is known as the most destructive insect throughout the tropical and subtropical sweet potato production areas and can damage sweet potatoes in the field and in storage.
Larvae tunneling into the tubers impart a bitter taste and can result in the sweet potatoes being unsuitable for human consumption.
Sweet potato weevils are common to south Louisiana, and all production fields in south Louisiana currently are under a mandatory management program.
Davis said his research will look at ways to control this pest on farms and at several AgCenter research stations.
“The plan is to help the grower out by making this project as simple as possible,” he said. “We’re going to be working with growers in the Rapides and Avoyelles parish areas as well as at our Dean Lee
Research Station in Alexandria and the Burden research center in Baton Rouge.”
Davis and his team will be looking at some host plant resistant varieties and how naturally occurring beneficial fungi can be used to kill this insect.
“We’re going to compare varieties Beauregard (orange flesh, weevil susceptible), Vermillion (orange flesh, weevil tolerant) and Murasaki (white flesh, weevil resistant) because we know there is something in Murasaki that keeps the weevil from feeding and reproducing as well,” he said.
Lauren Lazaro. LSU AgCenter file photo
Jeff Davis. LSU AgCenter file photo