Over the past several years, the LSU AgCenter has received grants totaling more than $750,000 for research and promotion projects to support specialty crops in Louisiana.
They’re part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture competitive grant program that provides funding for a range of specialty crops, which include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops, including floriculture.
Funding comes from the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to enhance competitiveness of specialty crops. The grants are awarded through the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.
Recent specialty crop grants support the following AgCenter projects:
- Increase the safety and competitiveness of Louisiana pecans by developing a safe, economical way to thermally treat pecans in a way that does not adversely affect the pecans’ taste and quality but will be consistent with increasing safety standards.
- Combat the spread of bacterial wilt, which is causing severe losses to Louisiana tomato, eggplant and pepper growers by creating and disseminating new management tactics involving resistant rootstock lines grafted to popular tomato varieties.
- Increase the marketability of Louisiana sweet potatoes by studying the nutritional content of new varieties and providing information to producers for product labeling. Reduce the harmful effects on growth and yield of sweet potatoes due to off-target movement or drift of herbicides by documenting the effects of reduced rates of herbicide 2,4-D and dicamba and providing the results to local growers. Improve management options for the sugarcane beetle through integrated pest management to benefit the Louisiana sweet potato industry.
- Increase marketability and sales of Louisiana specialty crops by providing producers with training on using Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Handling Practices (GHP). Workshops provide producers with knowledge about these programs and the tools to implement them.
- Promote the purchase of Louisiana specialty crops and improve youth nutrition through a program to promote the consumption of Louisiana specialty crops in schools and other institutions.
- Promote the production and sales of Louisiana olives by creating a demonstration olive orchard to study the varieties that will best produce in Louisiana and how best to manage and raise them, and use the results to inform and promote production.
- Raise sod producers’ awareness of zoysia shade tolerance by investigating variety selection, establishment methods and production times for saleable sod and informing consumers of the benefits of zoysia as a grass for home or commercial lawns.
- Promote the selection and evaluation of new ornamental plants, with emphasis on native and naturalized species, for nursery production and landscape use in Louisiana.
- Enhance competitiveness of Louisiana specialty crop growers through MarketMaker, a comprehensive interactive database of food industry marketing and business information.
- Determine the best course of action to mitigate the potential disease epidemic vectored by the Asian citrus psylid by studying the insect and the pathogens involved.
- Identify and promote plants that perform exceptionally well in Louisiana through the Super Plants program to serve all producers and retailers in the state.
Rick Bogren is a professor in LSU AgCenter Communications.