Winter 2018

Joe Willis, Singh, Raghuwinder, Afton, William, Timmerman, Anna, Fontenot, Kathryn, Motsenbocker, Carl E.

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Welcome to the 5 Acres & Under Farms Newsletter

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By Dr. Joe Willis

Welcome to the first edition of the “5 Acres or Fewer Farms Newsletter”.

Small farms have always been an important segment of agriculture in the United States. Some might even say they are the backbone. With the improvement in equipment and technology, larger farms and corporate farms became the main suppliers of food (and flowers) for U.S. consumers and the number of small farms dwindled. However, in recent years there has been a geometric proliferation of smaller farms because consumers have developed a desire and passion for food that is locally produced. Oftentimes the food is healthier and more flavorful. Small farmers usually give their crops more attention, use less pesticides and harvest them at their peak since long-term storage or long distance shipping are not issues they have to contend with. Local restaurants have become an integral part of this resurgence as they consider locally grown to be an asset they can use to enhance the quality and customer appeal of their menu offerings.

As this revitalized agricultural segment goes through its nascent stages, there will be farms that are very successful from the beginning, some that start softly and steadily grow over time, and some that never really make it for multiple reasons. The LSU AgCenter is here to advise and assist you in the pursuit of your dreams for success and we want to do all that we can to make that dream come true. With that in mind, we are pleased to announce the launch of a statewide quarterly newsletter dedicated to the small urban and rural farmers with production on less than five acres. The newsletter will be published in December, March, June, and October with articles targeted to that particular season. The newsletter will be sent via email to the small farm operators in each parish by the AgCenter agent for your parish. There will be articles from agents and specialists from all over the state that address the unique situations that small farmers may encounter.

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But we also want this to be an interactive newsletter; one that you participate in; one that addresses what is important to you. To that end, we need you to help us create as complete a database as possible of the small growers in our state. Whether you are a backyard gardener with a thousand square feet who sells your produce at the Farmer’s Market or a well-developed mini-farm supplying fresh veggies to several restaurants in your town, we want to know you exist and help you succeed. If you have something that you want to know about, email your local agent with your question and let them know you are a small farmer. Our hope is that as communication and interaction increases in this small farm community, the synergistic effect will lift everyone.

We have also established a Facebook page dedicated to our Louisiana small farm community. Check it out on Facebook: 5 Acres or Fewer Farms -

We applaud you for your endeavors and want to do all that we can to help you become a long-term success.

Dr. Joe W. Willis,LSU AgCenter ANR Agent

Farmer-Chef Relationships

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Key to Good Business

By: Anna Timmerman, LSU AgCenter ANR Agent

The farmer-chef relationship can be a difficult one. Farmers love to farm, chefs like to cook. With the growing popularity of the farm-to-table movement, developing good working relationships so that all parties involved are on the same page is key to a good business practice.

Whether you are already working with chefs directly or you are looking to break into this sort of arrangement, below are some tips that I found helpful when supplying restaurants over the years.

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Be realistic about what you can grow: Ah, yes, the seed catalog. Chefs usually get their hands on them and circle what they want you to grow. It’s easy to get excited and want to rush in and try new varieties and crops because you have someone willing to pay you for them. But can you grow it? Should you? Have you done it before? Did you try that variety in years past and it just really didn’t deliver a good flavor or yield? Be up front about varieties that work and also willing to add a few new things to the mix on an experimental basis. Don’t completely reinvent the wheel each season, and stick to what works for filling the bulk of your demand. You, as the farmer, know what works and what doesn’t (If you don’t, check out this site: ). If a chef wants radishes in July, we know that seems a bit far-fetched. Heirloom tomatoes are hot, but many fail in our growing conditions for a variety of reasons. Be honest.

Know what grows, in what season. Recommend alternatives. When trying new crops, never promise X amount of product by X date, because you really don’t know if you’ll be able to pull it off. Keep good

records or notes of new things that you tried so that you can use those results next year when planning what to grow. Specialty items usually generate more income than, say, onions or potatoes. The quantities used by most kitchens when it comes to staple crops are going to be way out of reach profit wise and space/ equipment/labor wise for most small growers. Let the restaurant source bulky, low-profit crops wholesale and focus on the things that they can’t find anywhere else.

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Commit to a delivery schedule and stick to it: We all know that when things are ready to harvest, that means that they are ready! We can’t change the weather but we can some- what predict roughly when an item will be ready to harvest. In the interest of keeping it simple, try to pick a day of the week and a time where you deliver, consistently. Things happen, but if you can reliably show up with your produce at the same time on the same day every week, this shows professionalism and that you care about your business. This also allows you to better plan when and what to plant. Seed companies provide an estimate of harvest times. Backdate using a calendar or an Excel spreadsheet (here’s a good one from NC State! ). Try to stick to it. Make notes on when things were actually ready in a journal or planner. This will be a great future resource as you plan for next year’s crops. If something is ready a few days before harvest day, you may need to harvest and store it. Be sure to do so properly and in a way that does not diminish quality. Be up front if you had to harvest the mizuna at three inches a few days early because it would be too large if you waited. Remember that every day that something sits in your cooler is a day that the restaurant loses. If they are used to a leafy crop coming in the day after harvest and lasting a week in their walk in cooler, but it’s been sitting in your cooler for three days this week, tell them! That’s three days of shelf life that they lost on an item that they use. They may need to order additional product to get them through the end of the week. Don’t leave them wondering why the greens are turning brown and stinky this week on a Thursday when they normally look and smell (and taste) great through Saturday.

Don’t just deliver and disappear, get feedback: Farmers are busy people, and so are chefs. If possible, when making your delivery, take a few minutes to talk with the chef or any other kitchen staff on the line about your produce. What is working? What needs tweaking? Maybe your salad mix turns brown where the edges were cut, meaning you need to rethink your harvest tools. Maybe the salad mix flops or is limp and doesn’t “stand up” on the plate. Did the flavor of something fail to deliver? As farmers, we know that the quality of produce fluctuates with the seasons and weather, and it is our job to communicate this to the kitchen. Flavors can change over time in the field and in the cooler at the restaurant. Generally, produce tastes best right after harvest. Time in a chilled situation can make things bland or grainy (think root crops!). If we got a lot of rain as the produce was finishing up a major growth push that can result in watery, flavor-deficient produce (think watery tomatoes!). Feedback time, even a few minutes, can defuse any misunderstandings and can provide valuable insight into things to work on improving or tweaking (like a salad mix). Stand by your produce and learn how it is being used.

Do right by your customers if there is a problem: This is a trust-building tip that helps to show your professionalism as a grower and your ability to be accountable if there is an issue with your product. Maybe you had a bad week for an item. Did a pest do some damage over the weekend? Did the rain or heat cause some issue? Chefs have a right to reject product that does not meet their standards. If there is an issue, it is best to be up front and communicate that with your buyers before harvesting and delivering. Don’t harvest and try to pass on subpar product. This may mean that that item is off the menu for that week until a better batch is ready to harvest. Chefs need to know this in advance so that they can order from another source with plenty of time. They get really mad if they are left scrambling for a must-have item during prep time and the restaurant is set to open in a few hours. Be honest about any issues as early in the game as possible, apologize, and make it right. This builds trust and respect.

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Bill on time and be professional: We all want to get paid. Restaurants usually all have different schedules for filling invoices and this can be really frustrating when selling to multiple establishments. Usually they have a “net 30” policy and you’ll get paid in 30 days. Can you wait 30 days for that check? Plan your farm and personal expenses accordingly. Have a professional invoice sheet that has your name and all contact info, as well as an invoice number on it. Keep one copy and give the other to whoever writes the checks. Be sure to include the delivery date on each one, as well as detailed info on what you brought in that week. This too helps you plan for what to grow next year because it’s a real record of actual demand and use for each product. It is best to have an invoice filled out and ready when you deliver your produce. Use a waterproof ink, sometimes boxes or bags of product are wet, or it’s raining, or the guy you hand it to has wet hands from washing dishes.

You want the invoice to be easily read and understood. If the restaurant is late paying you (know their payment policy ahead of time), don’t be timid about sending a reminder. Restaurants are chaotic and things sometimes get misplaced or buried. Don’t let a late payment ruin a good thing. Communicate and be realistic.

The key takeaway here is to be honest and develop good lines of communication between yourself, the grower, and the end user, the chef. This saves a whole lot of headache and trouble in the long run. Strive to run a professional business and you’ll have customers beating down your door. When everyone is on the same page, a great working relationship will be the result.

Small Farms Don’t Always Require Equipment

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By: Dr. Kiki Fontenot LSU AgCenter Vegetable Specialist

Vegetable farming is one of the remaining types of farming left in which a person from a non-agriculture background can still get into the game and be successful and profitable. When conjuring ideas of commodity crops such as rice, corn and sugar, one often thinks of vast amounts of land and large equipment. I don’t know many rice or sugar farmers (in the United States) producing on less than 10 acres. And I certainly haven’t seen a new combine listed under $500,000 or tractor, cart and semi- truck for grain transportation not costing another combined $500,000. Add the price of land and well, let’s face it, if you weren’t raised in a family growing these crops, you are highly unlikely to enter the game.

But all is not lost for the young or retired person who still wants to fulfill the dream of becoming a farmer. Vegetable production can be profitable on minimal acreage. Heck with the correct market, a single acre and minimal equipment (pending you have a strong back) can bring in a profit.

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One of the most useful tools for a small vegetable farmer is a tiller. Tillers can be attached to tractors for those growing on multiple acres. Gas powered but hand pushed tillers are useful for acre and larger vegetable farmers. And for those growing on less than an acre, an electric tiller is ideal. Mr. Burt Tietje owner and operator of Tall Grass Farms in Jennings, Louisiana uses an electric tiller in his beds. Tall Grass Farms produces fine lettuce, greens, artichokes, tomatoes, herbs, broccoli, peas, kale, asparagus and more in high tunnels and in open fields. Operating on about an acre, Burt is conservative with land space and likes to keep his beds fresh and ready to plant. Soil tilth is important for root growth and happy vegetables. His electric tiller does just the job and doesn’t even need a large barn for storage. Burt commented that the reason he really loves his electric battery powered tiller is that the company he purchased it from (Carts and Tools) is extremely helpful. Also he never has to worry about winterizing the engine. “If you don’t use the tiller often, leaving gas or oil in the lines can be a problem and carburetors seem to always have issues.”– Burt Tietje

Electric tillers are lightweight and can cut deep into the ground. They work best on ground that has already been broken by larger equipment. So if you can possibly borrow or rent a tractor for initial ground preparation an electric tiller will work to keep the soil loose for many years afterwards. The small size of electric tillers allows tillage between planted rows in tight spaces. Electric tillers are also very helpful in incorporating compost and other amendments into the soil. Electric tillers range in price from $250 to $600 for better models. When considering purchasing an electric tiller consider battery powered models if you are more than 100 feet from an outlet. Depending on the brand of tiller battery life span ranges greatly. Many companies advertise that batteries should be charged after about 40 minutes of continued work. Although Burt Tietje commented that his Tillie™ battery last for days. He generally only works several rows a day when needed. Some electric tillers come with batteries and others the battery is an additional cost. If your tiller has wheels make sure they are sturdy and make sure any handles are comfortable and durable as well.

To see a video of Burt using his electric tiller visit the Louisiana Fruit and Vegetable

Growers’ Association Facebook page at

Happy Farming

Louisiana Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association

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Fruit and vegetable production in Louisiana is a multi-million dollar industry with over 33 000 acres in commercial production and 7000 producers. Producers are growing in every Parish in the state and most of the fruit and vegetables are grown for the fresh market and sold locally.

Members of the Louisiana Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (LFVGA) grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables year round.In the early spring the fields are abundant with some of the sweetest strawberries in the country! During the summer, growers are handpicking sweet and juicy watermelons and cantaloupes. Tomatoes are produced from late spring through October providing consumers with a never-ending supply to eat fresh or preserve for the cool winters. Our members strive to provide the freshest, safest and most nutritious produce to Louisiana consumers.

Our Mission

The Louisiana Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association exists to provide support to Louisiana fruit and vegetable producers and those parties interested in the production of locally grown fruit and vegetables through research based information, marketing and networking.

The LFVGA is a growing organization that is striving to serve the fruit and vegetable industries of Louisiana and meet the needs of our members. We invite growers, suppliers, consumers, students, and educators to join the LFVGA. Benefits to our members include:

Education– The LFVGA provides several opportunities for members to attend regional trainings, field days and meetings to learn about new technologies, government regulations, pest management strategies, horticulture, and marketing strategies.

Voice of the Industry– The LFVGA, through our Board Members and Advisors to the Board, serves as a liaison to local, state and federal government agencies, university officials, consumers and others in the industry by offering communications through the website, the Vegetable Newsletter, Facebook, and face-to-face interactions. Members also receive a LFVGA Member Sign to hang at their place of business.

Support Materials- The LFVGA provides members with access to several production resources including the Southeastern Vegetable Production Handbook.

Find information on becoming a member by clicking on the following link:

Composting Explained

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By: Will Afton, LSU AgCenter ANR Extension Agent

Composting is a controlled natural biological process where bacteria, fungi, and other organisms decom- pose organic material such as leaves, grass clippings, and food waste. The end-result is referred to as compost or humus.

Using compost in the garden provides physical, chemical, and biological benefits. It improves soil structure, porosity, and density, creating an optimum environment for productive root growth. It helps to reduce erosion and runoff by increasing infiltration and permeability in heavy soils. It improves the water holding capacity in sandy soils. It can supply both macro and micronutrients. It improves a soil’s cation exchange capacity, improving the ability to retain nutrients in the rhizosphere. Compost also supplies beneficial microorganisms to soils.

Compost Process


The rate of decomposition of organic material in a compost pile is regulated by four basic factors: oxygen content, moisture content, carbon-nitrogen ratio, and temperature.

Efficient organic decomposition requires oxygen. Aeration is the term used to describe oxygen availability in a compost pile. Turn the compost with a garden fork to aerate the pile. Another way to accomplish this is to move the pile from one location to another. Greater aeration during the initial stages of decomposition intensifies microbe activity and greatly reduces the time needed for composting.

Organic matter added to the compost pile will contain moisture. However, to keep microbial activity at high rate, add additional water during the initial stages and during periods of little to no rainfall.

The carbon-nitrogen (C:N) ratio is the mass of elemental carbon to nitrogen contained within organic materials. A C:N ratio of 15:1 means that there are fifteen units of carbon to every one unit of nitrogen. Carbon is a cell building block and an energy source for soil microbes. Nitrogen is required for proper growth and metabolism of the microbial organisms. The target C:N is 30:1. The C:N ratios of many different organic products can be found online and mathematical equations are available to calculate total C:N ratio of the compostable material. However, many beginning composters attain good results by following the simple formula of three parts brown material to every one part green material. Brown material refers to car- bon heavy products such as leaves, tree trimmings, newspaper, rice hulls, sawdust, or stall shavings. Green material refers to nitrogen heavy products like coffee grounds, fruit/ vegetable scraps, grass clippings, and general garden waste.

The optimum temperature for biological decomposition ranges from 90°F to 140°F. The temperature of a compost pile doesn’t necessarily occur from a result of the average daily temperature but rather as a by-product of the microbial breakdown of organic material. Use a compost thermometer to get accurate readings of your compost pile. They feature a temperature gage attached to a long probe, which is inserted in the middle of the pile.

Composting Structures

There are two types of composting structures: holding units and turning units. Holding units provide physical structure to hold organic materials in place. They can be made from old containers, chicken wire, recycled pallets, hardware cloth, trashcans, recycled barrels, bricks, or cinder blocks.

Turning units are designed to allow for the mixing of organic material throughout the composting process. Examples of this type of composting units include the traditional three- bin system along with barrel units that are rotated on an axis. Both examples make it easy to physically aerate the decomposing organic material. Just like holding units, turning units can be made from many different types of recycled materials.

Finished Product

Composting relies on the growth and development of microorganisms and many variables influence a healthy microbial population. As discussed previously, these microbes need oxygen, water, nutrition, and the right temperature to decompose organic material. All four variables are limiting factors. If one is deficient, then it will affect the whole process and limit the final product. This makes it difficult to define a specific time needed to produce finished compost. Instead, use the following guidelines to ensure compost has finished decomposing and is ready for use in the garden:

1. Finished compost should be dark in color, The color can range from dark brown to black, hence the nickname, “black gold”.

2. The texture of finished compost should appear crumbly and somewhat fluffy.

3. Finished compost should smell sweet and earthy. Smells of rot and mold indicate the decomposition process is still ongoing.

4. The temperature of finished compost will have undergone a drop in temperature. Once the pile reaches 140-150°F, the temperature will drop once all the organic material is decomposed. The temperature of finished compost will be the same as the outside daily temperature.

Once the process is completed, compost can be used in many different situations. Add com- post to in-ground or raised bed vegetable gar- dens. Mix it in container gardens, as crops are harvested and replanted. Spread above the root zone (dripline) of fruit trees. Excess com- post can be used like mulch above the soil in all growing situations.

The LSU AgCenter has several publications on composting available online at

Integrated Vegetable Disease Management in Urban Farms

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By: Dr. Raj Singh, LSU AgCenter Horticulture Pathology Specialist, Plant Diagnostic Center Director,

Plant diseases pose major challenges in urban vegetable production by affecting both their quality and quantity. Losses from plant diseases occur in the form of reduced yield, inconsumable products, and/or plant death. Vegetable diseases can be successfully managed by adopting an integrated disease management approach (IDM). An IDM program is a long term management of diseases in an environmentally friendly manner and requires integrating good agricultural practices and other management techniques that include judicial use of fungicides within label guidelines to remove or suppress the development of the targeted pathogen and subsequent disease. Additionally, a successful IDM program minimizes the risk to human health, beneficial and non-target organisms, and the environment.

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IDM starts with adopting good agricultural practices. Plant the right plant in the right spot. Select sites with well drained, fertile soils that have good air movement and will have at least six hours of sunlight each day. Growers must avoid sites that have a history of plant diseases caused by soil-borne pathogens. For example, the pathogen that causes southern bacterial wilt may kill plants in a matter of days and can survive in infested soils for 3-5 years. Soil fertility plays a most critical role in supporting healthy plants. Remember, ‘healthy soils lead to healthy plants and healthy plants are less susceptible to plant diseases’. Have your soil tested annually to determine the pH, salts, nutrients and organic matter levels and water-holding capacity ( soiltest). Soil pH determines what nutrients are available for roots to absorb. Improper soil pH may result in nutrient deficiencies at early growth stages of the plant, leading to reduced yields or undesirable produce. Poorly drained soils are very conducive for soilborne pathogens such as species of Pythium and Phytophthora. Additionally, water saturated root zones for extended periods may result in an anaerobic environment that will cause root rot. Almost all foliar fungal and bacterial pathogens require high humidity and/or free water on the foliage to initiate the infection process. Sites with good air movement provide rapid drying of foliage resulting in less moisture for potential disease development. Other cultural practices that help modify the ecosystem to make the environment less favorable for disease development and spread include watering the plants during early morning hours, balanced fertilization, soil solarization and crop rotation.

The next step is to start clean and stay clean. Growers must plant clean seed and/or certified disease-free transplants. Seeds or transplants should be purchased from reliable vendors. If growers save their own seeds, then these seeds must come from healthy disease-free plants. Seed treatment recommendations are available from your local parish agent upon request. Disease resistant varieties of many vegetables are also available and should be an integral part of vegetable production in urban farms. During the growing season, growers must scout their vegetables for development of any abnormalities. If an issue is detected, rapid and accurate identification is critical for successful management of the problem. Plant issues can be caused by several biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living) factors. Problems caused by biotic factors can be transmit- ted from an infected plant to a healthy plant and are referred to as ‘Diseases’, whereas those caused by abiotic factors do not transmit and are called ‘Disorders’. Disorders result from extreme weather conditions, over or un- der use of nutrients, non-target injury from use of herbicides or phytotoxicity from excessive use of chemicals. Growers must possess a basic knowledge of being able to differentiate between diseases and disorders.

Once the disease or disorder is diagnosed, growers must immediately implement management strategies to reduce or correct the problem. Remove symptomatic plant tissue or an infected plant to reduce disease spread. Avoid handling diseased plants when they are wet. Symptomatic plants must be properly secured in trash bags before carrying them out of the production area. This practice helps in reducing the dispersal of spores from infected to healthy plants. Diseased plants should not be composted and, if feasible, double bag be- fore discarding them. Growers must clean

tools if they come in contact with diseased plants. Generally, sanitation of tools should be practiced regularly in urban farming.

After harvest, remove all volunteer plants and/or plant debris that may harbor overwintering pathogens. Keep farms free of weeds all the time. Weeds can be a host for important vegetable viruses and their vectors, and act as reservoirs of inoculum when vegetables are not in production.

Managing insect pests and other arthropods that serve as vectors of plant diseases is a critical part of a successful IDM program.

Diseases that develop rapidly in the field warrant fungicide use. Growers must follow fungicide label recommendations for dose and frequency of ap- plication. Remember, ‘the label is the law’. Use only fungicides that are labeled for that particular crop and disease. Fungicide mode of actions should be altered to reduce fungicide resistance among pathogens.

For more information on vegetable disease management in urban farms, contact your lo- cal parish offices or the LSU AgCenter Plant Diagnostic Center.

Keys to Integrated Disease Management (IDM):

1. Select proper growing site.
i. Receives adequate sunlight
ii. Well drained
iii. Disease free
iv. Correct pH

2. Use clean seed or certified disease free transplants.

3. Select disease resistant varieties.

4. Regularly scout for dis-ease in crop and act quickly when a problem is detected.

5. Isolate and dispose of infected plant material. Do not compost.

6. Sanitize farm tools. Especially those that come into contact with diseased plant material.

7. Irrigate during morning hours.

8. Fertilize properly.

9. Rotate crops.

10. Keep the fields clean and free of plant debris and weeds. Use soil solarization to control weeds, pests, and pathogens.

LSU AgCenter Labs and Resources

Joe WillisjpgBy: Dr. Joe Willis, LSU AgCenter ANR Agent

The Plant Diagnostic Center ( is a service of the LSU AgCenter and is supported by the Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology. Routine plant diagnostic services are provided to Louisiana state residents at a charge of $20 per sample. The center diagnoses plant samples with problems caused by fungi, bacteria, viruses, nematodes, insect pests and mites, as well as nonpathogenic agents and weed identification. At the Plant Diagnostic Center homepage, you will find links to “Factsheets and Publications”, “Integrated Pest Management”, “Management Guides”, etc. as well as a link to the “forms” you need to fill out and the “procedures” for collecting samples for diagnosis.

Nematode Advisory Service ( ) provides the necessary service to correctly identify the problem and recommend the best methods of managing these pests. There are additional links to get more information about plant-parasitic nematodes such as the types of damage nematodes cause, how to collect and send in samples to test for them, and what are the best management strategies to use when these pests are causing problems.

The Department of Agriculture Chemistry ( ) provides analytical support for research and extension efforts of the LSU AgCenter as well as for the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. Analyses are performed on plant and animal tissues, soil, water, feeds, fertilizers, pesticides, agricultural chemicals and agricultural commodities. The Agricultural Chemistry laboratory will analyze these sample types for the general public for a fee. Contact us for fees and sample submittal forms. This lab will test everything from the content of your fertilizer to the chemical residues on your products. There is a link to the tests they perform and the cost of testing.

The Louisiana State Arthropod Museum ( ) serves the needs of the citizens of Louisiana as a source of insect and related arthropod identifications and information. Basic identification and diagnosis are provided for $20 per sample or submitted photograph(s) (multiple photos of the same species count as one). We emphasize non-plant-based arthropods, especially urban and public health arthropods. LSAM also coop- erates with the Plant Diagnostic Center for plant-based arthropods.

The Soil Testing and Plant Analysis Laboratory ( ) offers a variety of soil, plant tis- sue and water tests to the general public and research community. With an integrated effort from both research and extension agronomists, the LSU AgCenter Soil Testing and Plant Laboratory is the only laboratory that incorporates latest Louisiana-specific soil fertility research in its recommendation system to help farmers to meet today's challenges in agricultural production. At this website you will find links to the different tests provided and what is tested for, the forms required when submitting samples, how to take and submit samples and a fee schedule.

New Beginner Farmer Training Program

Grow Louisiana

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By: Dr. Carl Motsenbocker, Professor LSU School of Plant Environment, and Soil Sciences

The Grow Louisiana: Beginning Farmer Training Program is a new sustainable agriculture educational program, designed for beginning horticulture farmers in the state of Louisiana. This three-year program, funded by the USDA Beginning Farmer Rancher Development Program will begin in January 2018 in the New Orleans area. The program is focusing on two long-term goals for continued success; the first goal is to serve as Louisiana’s first state-wide extensive, yearlong agricultural education program that provides technical, business and hands on training to beginning farmers. The second goal is to serve as a built-in, sustainable, long-term support system for the beginning farmers in Louisiana. The overall goal of the program is that at least 36 new and/or be- ginning farmers in Louisiana will participate in the program and be more confident and successful in their farming ventures as well as engaging with other farmers in a community for continued support, mentoring, and information exchange. The Grow Louisiana program will target beginning farmers on small to mid- size family farms statewide with less than 10 years of experience in farming. The beginning farmer definition is based on the USDA established criteria. The training program is a collaborative effort of the LSU AgCenter with MarketUmbrella and SPROUT NOLA in New Orleans and the Acadiana Food Alliance in Lafayette.

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Grow Louisiana is a whole farm planning and technical training program. A main focus of this program, so that it provides not only technical production education, but emphasizes management strategies, business management and decision-making strategies, is to enhance the long-term viability of beginning farmers. The program will be designed as a sustained tool for farmers to gain long-term training and support in the business and economic aspects of management.

Through Grow Louisiana beginning farmers will have an opportunity for both formal and informal farmer networking and information exchange as well as peer to peer mentoring with experienced farmers. Information will be shared on a forum that will be set up on the internet for the be- ginning farmers to pose questions to one another and share resources so that they may learn from one another and engage their colleagues. The program will also create an ongoing statewide network of farmers through the development of a Louisiana Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) program in the state. CRAFT is a farmer-led coalition organized by sustainable agriculture farmers in a self- selected geographic region.

Those interested in taking part in the yearlong training program (see below the class schedule) may apply through this site. The training will be offered in New Orleans in 2019, Lafayette in 2020 and New Orleans in 2021. For more details on the program or to sign up:

2019 Topic Schedule (Beginning Jan. 15)

  • Goal Setting & Business Planning
  • Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Meeting in Little Rock, AR
  • Soils 101: Fertility Basics
  • Risk Management & Food Safety
  • Vegetables 101: Warm Season
  • Information Sources, Record Keeping & Inventory
  • Fruits 101: Orchard Design & Management
  • Marketing Overview & MarketReady
  • Financing, Land Acquisition & Resources
  • Soils 201: Soil Maintenance & Improvement
  • Veggie Compass
  • Vegetables 201: Cool Season
  • Farmers Markets & CSAs
  • Fruits 201: Tree Maintenance & Pest Management
  • Labor, Integrated Pest Management & Environmental Modification
  • Whole Farm Business Plans
  • Vegetable Field Day

    Save the Date!

    LSU Ag Center / Louisiana Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association
    Vegetable Field Day
    Tuesday January 29, 2019
    8am to 12:30pm
    LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens
    4560 Essen Lane Baton Rouge Louisiana 70809

    Featured Events:

    • Food Safety Farm Tour
    • LFBF Market Produce Advisory Committee
    • LFVGA Updates

    If you need a special accommodation for your participation in the event, please contact Mary Sexton at (225)578– 2110 at least two weeks prior to the event.

    Think About Grafting

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    By: Dr. Joe Willis, LSU AgCenter ANR Agent

    The idea of grafting vegetables has been around for a long time. There is evidence of gourd grafting from China in the 5th century. In 1927, a grower in Japan grafted watermelons to overcome Fusarium wilt. The practice quickly spread in Japan and Korea and has been practiced in Asia for many years. Grafting was very successful at overcoming problems that resulted from intensive farming on limited arable land in high population density countries. In 2000, except for tomatoes, almost 100% of fruiting vegetables were grafted in South Korea and Japan. Over 40 million grafted tomato seedlings are used annually in North American greenhouses. There has also been a steady increase in trials using grafted melons for field production. In the United States, because of the increase in intensive farming, the rise in organic production and the popularity of heirloom vegetables, the use of grafted vegetables has been on the rise.

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    The rationale behind grafting vegetables is the advantages of a strong, disease and stress resistant root system supporting a top that produces desired fruit. There are published reports demonstrating the success of grafting vegetables to control plant diseases. (Table 1).

    In addition to the pros for grafting there are some cons: increased labor requirements, increased per plant cost, reduced wind vigor due to the weaker graft union site and sometimes there is rootstock/ scion incompatibility or unexpected changes to fruit characteristics.

    Many of the commercial seed companies also sell grafted vegetable plants. These include

    Johnny’s Seeds, Territorial Seeds, Stark Bro’s, Jung, Totally Tomatoes, and Burpee’s. The plants are more expensive and you are limited to the varieties they have available. Some of the increased costs

    can be recouped by doing your own grafting. You also get to make the choice of what variety will be your scion.

    Grafting vegetables is not very complicated and doesn’t require a lot of expensive equipment. It does require practice to get really good at it. All the tools you need are razor blades, grafting clips/tubes, a mist chamber (easily constructed yourself), and a few misting bottles. And of course you need the root- stock and scion plants. Rootstock seed is commercially available for tomato, eggplant, pepper, and cucurbit. There are also a number of publications and videos available with grafting instructions and demonstrations.

    examples of diseasesjpg

    Table 1 above: Examples of diseases controlled through the use of grafted vegetables. Information from research paper Grafting for Disease Resistance by King, Davis, Liu, and Levi. Click here to see full paper.

    Here is a short list of some that I have found helpful:

    and these are just a few. There are also websites dedicated to information on vegetable grafting: is a great site that features the LSU grafting video.

    Grafting is a good way to get all the advantages of a strong root system from one plant and the great fruit of another without going through the long and risky plant breeding process. It is especially useful if you are a grower of heirloom varieties. If you have successfully used grafted vegetables before, keep using them and branch out this year into a few more varieties. If you have never used grafted vegetables before, give them a try and see if they can’t add to your bottom line.

    Basic steps for tomato graftingjpg

    The images above show the basic steps for creating tomato transplants by grafting.

    12/21/2018 5:52:56 PM
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