(07/29/21) NEW ROADS, La. — Commodity field days are a normal summertime occurrence for LSU AgCenter agriculture agents and specialists, but a field day without growers is just different.
During “normal” years, the AgCenter brings together other state and federal agriculture agencies to discuss the condition of crops and livestock in the region.
This year, the AgCenter Central Region held its Interagency Rolling Crops Field Day on July 20 with stops throughout the morning at farms that produce pecans, sugarcane, beef cattle, soybeans and crawfish.
AgCenter agent Mark Carriere led the group, which also included representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.
Tara Smith, director of the AgCenter Central Region, said rolling field day tours help build relationships between the AgCenter and other agricultural agencies.
“The goal of these farm tours is to create an opportunity for interagency cooperation,” she said. “It also provides training for the agency employees so they can better understand issues faced by stakeholders.”
While visiting the various farms, AgCenter and other ag agency specialists gave research updates and discussed how the recent rains are affecting things like insect and weed pressure.
The tour began in Gus May’s pecan orchard in Ventress, where AgCenter agent Michael Polozola discussed diseases and recommendations.
“Growing up in Baton Rouge, I thought if you had land in Pointe Coupee Parish, it was automatic that you had pecan trees,” May said.
After moving to Ventress and getting into the business, he said he soon found out it was more than a hobby.
Also at May’s farm, AgCenter animal scientist Glen Gentry discussed his feral hog eradication efforts using sodium nitrite. He was joined by LDAF feral hog control specialist Gene Cavalier, who discussed different trapping systems.
At the Joe Beaud III farm in Morganza, AgCenter sugarcane specialist Kenneth Gravois discussed the sugarcane crop and challenges that hemp growers are facing.
“With any new crop venture such as industrial hemp, problems will be encountered. This where research comes in,” he said. “Varieties need to be identified that are adapted to the growing region.”
Disease and insect pests need to be identified and control measures planned.
“The AgCenter has developed a research initiative to solve some of these problems,” he said.
Gravois said the sugar industry figured this out early in its history.
“In 1885, they realized they were getting behind in technology, so they started an experiment station,” he said. “Two years before the Louisiana ag experiment station came into being, the Louisiana sugar industry had already started their own research station.”
At Matt Frey’s beef cattle farm in Morganza, AgCenter regional beef specialist Ashley Edwards and Guillermo Scaglia, LSU AgCenter ruminant nutrition and forage systems specialist, discussed beef research and the Beef Brunch Educational Series, which is a monthly, virtual programming effort for beef cattle producers.
Edwards also discussed the new Beginning Farmers program, which is a complement to the established Master Farmer program.
Vince Deshotel, a regional livestock agent in St. Landry Parish who also coordinates the Master Cattleman program, gave an update on the program and discussed some new programming moving forward.
This beef stop ended with a presentation by Dillon Lecuir with the LDAF branding division. He explained the work that he does in dealing with the theft of cattle around the state.
The field day concluded at Four Oaks Farms in Morganza with speakers including agriculture specialists with the AgCenter, LDAF, the USDA Farm Service Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Among the concluding speakers was Mike Salassi, AgCenter associate vice president and program leader for plant and animal programs.
Salassi discussed a USDA Best Management Practices Education Grant the AgCenter has received to study soil health around the state.
“Soil health is probably one of the most important topics that we can research and educate producers on,” Salassi said. “This grant allows us to conduct soil health forums and workshops, which are good for producers as well as USDA and LDAF staff.”
LSU AgCenter regional livestock specialist Ashley Edwards discusses the state beef situation during the AgCenter Central Region Interagency Rolling Crops Field Day on July 20, which consisted of stops throughout the morning program at farms that produce pecans, sugarcane, beef cattle, soybeans and crawfish. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter
Mike Salassi, LSU AgCenter associate vice president, and program leader for plant and animal programs, gave program updates and discussed upcoming activities during the AgCenter Central Region Interagency Rolling Crops Field Day on July 20. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter
Kenneth Gravois, LSU AgCenter sugarcane specialist gives an update on the sugarcane crop and the bad situation that hemp growers are facing during the AgCenter Central Region Interagency Rolling Crops Field Day on July 20. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter