St. Helena Parish residents take advantage of revamped park
Residents of St. Helena Parish are enjoying new amenities at a local park thanks to Healthy Communities, an initiative led by the LSU AgCenter. Charlie Overton Park, just west of Greensburg, was rededicated on March 31 with an event featuring games, a petting zoo and informational exhibits. One group of visitors played basketball as others met Hershey, a goat who has a chocolate-colored coat.
Bianca Plant, the AgCenter area nutrition agent in St. Helena Parish, used a grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make improvements at the parish-owned park.
“We have been able to upgrade this park with new bleachers and picnic tables,” she said. “We have also started a farmers market, and we are developing a community garden.”
This is the second year of the $1.45 million grant, which funds programs in St. Helena, Madison, West Feliciana and Tensas parishes that encourage people to make healthier food and lifestyle choices. Each parish has an obesity rate of more than 40 percent.
“Events like this and others that we have planned are designed to get our people moving more and to help improve their health,” Plant said. Johnny Morgan
Seed program supports sweet potato industry
When Louisiana sweet potato farmers begin planting later this spring, many of them will use transplants grown from seed from the LSU AgCenter Foundation Seed Program.
The AgCenter annually produces 10,000 to 15,000 bushels of foundation seed — sweet potato roots that farmers use to sprout the “slips” they cut and transplant to grow their crop. Each batch of seed roots originates from about a dozen plants that have passed rigorous screening for viruses, mutations and other problems.
There’s no way to tell if the plants are totally virus-free. But scientists make sure there are no signs of a few key viruses that pose significant threats to yields.
“We test for the viruses that we know about and provide evidence that they’re not there,” said AgCenter plant pathologist Chris Clark.
Plants to be used for foundation seed are checked for six viruses. Four are potyviruses, which are common on American sweet potato farms. The other two are not normally found in the commercial sweet potato industry. But they are devastating, Clark said, causing 80- to 90-percent yield losses if they show up alongside the standard potyviruses.
“We think it’s important to provide the service of keeping potential problems out,” he said.
Plants that prove to be “clean” are stored in glass containers to keep them safe from virus vectors. Each fall, the clean plants are transferred to greenhouses at the AgCenter Sweet Potato Research Station in Chase, where they grow into the next crop of foundation seed.
Planting virus-tested seed doesn’t guarantee farmers won’t run into trouble during the growing season.
“But we’ve found that even despite the low levels of reinfection we get, the seed is much better quality than it would be if we were not doing anything,” Clark said. Olivia McClure
National rice group tours research station
Members of the Rice Leadership Development Program toured the LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station and visited the crawfish farming operation of Christian and Julie Richard in Vermilion Parish in March.
Steve Linscombe, who retired last year as the station’s director, is director of this program, which gives young men and women a comprehensive understanding of the U.S. rice industry, with an emphasis on personal development and communication training.
One of the presentations made at the research station was by leadership class member Adam Famoso, an AgCenter rice breeder.
“It’s been a great experience to see the different practices at the station,” said Zach Urrutia, a class member from Maxwell, California. He works for California Family Foods, and his family has a rice farm.
Another class member, Matthew Sligar, a rice farmer from Gridley, California, is making videos of the tours for YouTube and his website, ricefarmingtv.com.
Other members of the class are Brad Doyle, of Weiner, Arkansas; Brian McKenzie, of Plumas Lake, California; Scott Savage, of Bay City, Texas; and Zach Worrell, of Hornersville, Missouri.
The group also toured a grain-loading facility south of New Orleans. Other visits as part of this program are to rice-growing areas of Arkansas, California, Mississippi and Missouri as well as a trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with lawmakers who represent rice-growing states. They also will tour the John Deere combine-manufacturing facility and the Chicago Board of Trade.
John Deere Company, RiceTec Inc. and American Commodity Company are sponsors of the Rice Leadership Development Program through a grant to The Rice Foundation. USA Rice manages the program. Bruce Schultz
Wheat success may offset depressed prices
LSU AgCenter experts, speaking at the annual wheat and oat field day on April 18 at the LSU AgCenter Tom H. Scott Research, Extension and Education Center in Winnsboro, Louisiana, reported impressive wheat production this year, which could offset depressed prices.
AgCenter plant pathologist Boyd Padgett said disease issues are the lightest he has seen in more than 30 years working with wheat.
Wheat acreage in Louisiana continues to decline. Growers planted 15,000 acres this year, which is lower than last year’s then-record low of 20,000 acres. Padgett said this is primarily because of scab disease, low market prices and several years of inclement weather.
AgCenter plant pathologist Trey Price said Fusarium head blight, or scab disease, has devastated the wheat industry over the past three years, resulting in yield losses from 15 to 20 percent.
To optimize disease control, Price said timing fungicide applications during flowering is critical. “You have only about a five-day window, and even with the best fungicide, only 50 percent control can be expected,” he said. Karol Osborne
12 named to Louisiana 4-H Hall of Fame
A dozen new members for the Louisiana 4-H Hall of Fame were recognized April 28 at the 4-H Museum in Mansura, Louisiana. They were, left to right, front row, Deborah Gissel, of Jefferson Parish; Leonard Eisenstein, of St. Martin Parish; Rosanne Williams, of Livingston Parish for her late husband, David; Gayla Crum, of Concordia Parish; Brenda Foster McCoy, of Bienville Parish; and Mary Ann Sagrera, of Acadia Parish; back row, from left, Andrea Alday, of St. Charles Parish; Blue Rolfes, of Lafayette Parish; Elizabeth Jordan, of Caddo Parish; Kathy Landry, of St. Mary Parish; Gwen Broussard, of Vermilion Parish; and Sharon Nabours, of Calcasieu Parish. Bruce Schultz
Culinary workshop pairs 4-H’ers with local celebrity chef
Northeast Louisiana 4-H members learned culinary tricks of the trade from Chef Cory Bahr at a culinary workshop in March at Bahr’s catering kitchen in Monroe. Eighteen 4-H’ers from eight northeast Louisiana parishes donned aprons and gloves to join Bahr for a two-hour, hands-on cooking lesson.
Bahr, an award-winning chef and Monroe native, said he sponsored the workshop to inspire the next generation of hospitality professionals to eat better, live longer and enjoy a healthier lifestyle.
The student chefs-in-training worked in teams to prepare Louisiana Gulf Coast shrimp and grits, one of Bahr’s signature recipes.
“I loved how his energy filled the room and made me feel so welcome,” Morehouse Magnet School seventh-grader Vincent Winston said.
Bahr, a Food Network “Chopped!” champion and recent runner-up on the “Next Food Network Star” cooking show, is a former winner of the Great American Seafood Cook-Off and continues to host the annual competition held in New Orleans. Karol Osborne
Toby Lepley named new 4-H head
Toby Lepley, formerly with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, began serving as the new associate vice president and program leader for 4-H youth development at the LSU AgCenter on April 1. He replaces Mark Tassin, who will be retiring July 31, 2018. Lepley was with Texas A&M AgriLife for the past 24 years, the past four as assistant state 4-H leader. Before that, he served as associate professor, county 4-H extension agent and 4-H program specialist in various locations in Texas. Johnny Morgan