Visitors plant trees at the Botanic Gardens during Arbor Day event
Elder Johnston helps 3-year-old Kate Ellet Prejean plant a tree during Arbor Day festivities at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden on Jan. 21. They were among more than 150 visitors who braved muddy and wet grounds to participate in the annual event. The tree planting is part of a reforestation effort to replace damage from Hurricane Gustav in 2008. Each person who planted a tree was given the GPS coordinates to be able to return to the tree over the coming years to mark its growth. Despite the soggy ground, Arbor Day participants planted approximately 110 native trees, said Botanic Gardens director Jeff Kuehny.
“Participants learned about the importance of trees to our environment and urban forest, got a visit from Smokey Bear from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry and watched LSU forestry students do a tree saw demonstration,” Kuehny said.
Timing key to successful irrigation
Bruce Garner, LSU AgCenter agent in West Carroll Parish, discusses two types of soil moisture sensors during a sustainable irrigation workshop on Jan. 17 at the Red River Research Station in Bossier City. Sensors can help farmers with irrigation timing.
AgCenter engineer Stacia Davis said agricultural irrigation and overall water use have increased in recent years in Louisiana. In 2014, the state used 9.3 billion gallons of water, about half of which was used for power generation, she said. Louisiana’s groundwater aquifers — which can take decades and centuries to be replenished — are facing pollution from chemicals, saltwater intrusion and low water levels. That is concerning, Davis said, because groundwater is the most common source of irrigation water.
“We have increased our use but have not changed where we’re drawing it from,” she said, adding that the state needs to make better use of its abundant surface water.
AgCenter water quality specialist Changyoon Jeong told about his work monitoring nutrient content of water from Red Bayou, a project that pumps water from the Red River to a bayou so farmers can use it instead of groundwater to irrigate.AgCenter agronomist Syam Dodla said most Louisiana farmers irrigate by flooding furrows. That practice is only 40 to 70 percent efficient, he said. Irrigating every other row uses up to 30 percent less water without a yield penalty, Dodla said. The practice works best in heavy soils.
New rice herbicide topic of meetings
A new herbicide for rice, Provisia, has been approved by federal regulators, according to Eric Webster, an LSU AgCenter weed scientist, speaking on Jan. 17 at a rice producers meeting in Alexandria. The Provisia rice technology is resistant to Provisia herbicide, quizalofop, already used on other crops. The technology will allow farmers to control red rice that has become resistant to Clearfield herbicide, but badly infested fields will require a comprehensive approach that includes soybeans in rotation with Provisia, Webster said.AgCenter rice breeder Steve Linscombe said he has been working on Provisia rice for four years at the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station near Crowley, and an experimental line has the potential to become the first Provisia variety. “We’re hopeful to have a substantial seed increase this year, and it could be commercially available in 2018,” Linscombe said.
Farmers hear about worker protection at Northeast Louisiana Crops Forum
New worker protection standards will require more work and record-keeping on farm operations, Carol Pinnell-Alison, LSU AgCenter county agent in Franklin Parish, told producers at the Northeast Louisiana Crops Forum on Feb. 9.
Some of the new regulations went into effect in 2016, with additional changes being phased in this year and full implementation set for Jan. 1, 2018. Changes with the greatest impact for producers include worker age restrictions, exclusion zones, employee training, record-keeping and posting requirements, she said.
To apply or handle pesticides, or enter fields where pesticides have been applied before the re-entry interval has expired, employees must be 18 years old or older except for immediate family members. Exemptions for family members have been expanded under the new regulations, she said.Employers are encouraged to become certified trainers because a grace period is no longer allowed for new hires, and new employees on a farm must be trained their first day on the job, she said.
Resistant starch receives health claim
Michael Keenan, professor in the LSU AgCenter School of Nutrition and Food Sciences, conducts research on resistant starch. A new health claim approved by the Food and Drug Administration says the resistant starch, which is high-amylose maize starch, could be effective in the fight against Type 2 diabetes. “The qualified claim means this is emerging science, and there is more research needed,” Keenan said.Keenan and other researchers have been working with resistant starch for nearly 15 years. High-amylose maize starch contains a high percentage of amylose, one of two components of starch, he said. Amylose is a slow-digesting starch that acts like fiber. The other component, amylopectin, is quick to break down and digests rapidly. In his research, Keenan found that resistant starch can improve blood glucose control.
Consumers choose more fresh food
As consumers abandon frozen foods for fresh foods, the food distribution chain is changing, said Larry Bell, CEO of Sustainably Fresh Systems in Pacific Grove, California. Speaking at the 2017 Louisiana Food Processors Conference on Feb. 16, Bell explained how packaging from his company uses an ultra-low oxygen and high carbon dioxide atmosphere to extend freshness and marketability of fresh foods, particularly meat and seafood.
The conference was sponsored by the LSU AgCenter School of Nutrition and Food Sciences, Louisiana Sea Grant, the Gulf Coast section of the Institute of Food Technologists and the Louisiana Food Processors Association.
On the other end of the spectrum, experts are working to improve the quality and efficacy of shelf-stable foods. Processors have various choices for selecting antimicrobial packaging, said Claire Sand with Packaging Technology and Research, a packaging design company. Packaging is considered a food additive, and must meet several health and safety requirements, Sand said.
New packaging concepts include degradation sensors that can measure product quality and be an improved indicator of shelf life. And new water vapor barrier technology helps prevent freezer burn in packaged meals.
The concept of improving shelf-stable products is becoming more important in an age when more consumers are less likely to cook at home and prefer being able to open one package to produce a complete meal, said Louise Wicker, director of the LSU AgCenter School of Nutrition and Food sciences.“It’s important the food industry meets the needs of consumers in the areas of taste, cost, convenience and health,” Wicker said. “Shelf-stable foods are necessary for low-income consumers and anyone who is interested in easier, healthier cooking at home.”
2,000 youth participate in 82nd Livestock Show
More than 2,000 youth from across Louisiana participated in the 82nd LSU AgCenter Livestock Show held Feb. 11-18 at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, showing various breeds of beef and dairy cattle, goats, hogs, poultry and sheep. But the state event, a culmination of competition at the parish and district levels, is much more than about the livestock industry.
“This show is much more about recognizing champion young people than it is about naming champion animals,” said Bill Richardson, LSU vice president for agriculture. “Every youngster who participated in this show is a champion because of the dedication, skills and knowledge they’ve demonstrated by caring for their animals.”
The 2017 show was presented by Gerry Lane Enterprises and PotashCorp, with additional funding from the Meraux Foundation, said Vickie Hutchinson, director of development for livestock programs. Other top-level donors included First South Farm Credit, Sunshine Quality Solutions, Louisiana Cattlemen’s Association, Louisiana Land Bank and Mosaic. The Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation endowment supported awards for Supreme Champion animals in all six breeding species: beef cattle, dairy, poultry, sheep, goats and swine.
Horticulture group honors OwingsAllen Owings, a commercial ornamental horticulture specialist with the LSU AgCenter, received the Henry Covington Extension Award for Horticulture Professionals from the Southern Region of the American Society for Horticultural Science at the society’s southern region meeting in Mobile, Alabama, on Feb. 5. Owings has been a member of AgCenter horticulture faculty for 25 years and has worked primarily in extension for the past 20 years. He serves as research coordinator for the AgCenter Hammond Research Station.
Ag Adventures celebrates 10 years
Baby, a black Dutch bantam chicken, took a break during the LSU AgCenter Ag Adventures in Delhi to briefly perch on the head of Tyrell Jones, a Berg Jones Elementary School second-grader. He was one of 950 students in second and third grades and their teachers who took part in the two-day educational event Feb. 20-21.
For 10 years, Ag Adventures has helped children learn about the agricultural products grown in northeast Louisiana and how they are used in everyday life, said Terri Crawford, AgCenter regional coordinator and co-coordinator of the event.
Students visited interactive learning stations highlighting sweet potato production and processing, gardening, honeybees, handwashing and germs as well as a mini farm, Crawford said.
In the mini farm, six exhibits were set up for hands-on activities and educational talks about different livestock species, including dairy and meat goats, lambs, chickens, rabbits and a donkey, said Union Parish county agent Brandon Reeder. Two activities concentrated on dairy products. Students made butter and milked Louella, a wooden model of a cow.
Berg Jones Elementary teacher Tara McKeller said many of her second-graders have never been exposed to farm animals, and because children are tactile learners, they will remember these personal experiences.
“I just wanted them to know that agriculture is vital to the economy of north Louisiana, and a lot of them never have a chance to see that,” she said