A is for Agriculture: Louisiana’s agricultural past has been shaped by the LSU AgCenter, LSU College of Agriculture and the mission of the Land-Grant University System

Economies across Louisiana are fueled by agriculture. Modernization makes it look vastly different than it did when ag was the main economic driver decades ago, and farmers, with the help of agricultural research, have found ways to grow more crops on fewer acres. Still agriculture sits in the second spot of top industries in the state behind oil and gas. Agricultural production — the crops and livestock farmers grow and raise — in Louisiana is valued at $11 billion. The agricultural industry — the total production in addition to value added and the inputs farmers purchase, the workers they hire, the land they purchase or rent — contributes $30 billion to the state’s economy.

The value of agriculture to the state was not lost on LSU President William F. Tate IV when developing the five priorities for the LSU Scholarship First agenda. Tate launched the agenda in March 2022, which he said seeks to preserve our rich heritage of culture and tradition and protect the people of Louisiana in the ways that they deserve.

Tate took the Scholarship First Agenda on the road in March 2023 with a bus tour across the state, meeting with leaders and locals throughout Louisiana.

“The Scholarship First Agenda is about a commitment to the pursuit of excellence in everything we do. It is about exceptional academic scholarship in the form of research and creative works,” Tate said in a letter launching the agenda. “It is about carving out financial pathways that allow students of talent to pursue an LSU education without barriers. And it is about using our intellectual and human capital to create innovative and timely advances in critical areas that better the lives of our friends and neighbors.”

At the top of his pentagon of priorities is agriculture, and the arms of agriculture reach into all five priorities, which also include biomedical, coast, defense and energy.

Louisiana’s agricultural past has been shaped by the LSU AgCenter, LSU College of Agriculture and the mission of the Land-Grant University System. The future will be forged by cutting-edge research and innovative solutions to challenges from the AgCenter’s Agricultural Experiment Station and the spread of education and information through the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service. The Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station has a long history of conducting research in a broad array of scientific disciplines to support the diverse agricultural industry in Louisiana.


“Top scientists using modern advanced research techniques are continually evaluating issues and challenges faced by Louisiana agricultural producers to identify best management production practices which will help ensure the economic viability as well as the environmental sustainability of agricultural production in the state well into the future,” said Mike Salassi, LSU AgCenter associate vice president and director of the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station. Salassi said his top priority is to have the best qualified faculty conducting research on agricultural production issues critical to Louisiana’s agricultural industry and to provide faculty with the resources to be successful in achieving research results that will translate into beneficial impacts to Louisiana agriculture. LSU AgCenter has identified eight research priorities that are critical to Louisiana agriculture.

A woman stands at a counter in a lab while handling a Petri dish.

Soil Health, Land and Water Management

Land and water are vital foundational elements of agricultural production. Research activities focus on identifying best management production practices which promote soil health while conserving land and water resources.

Nutrition, Health and Food Safety

Nutrition and food sciences make significant contributions to the overall food industry through research on food product development, processing and safety as well as research and outreach on the beneficial nutritional impacts of healthy dietary practices. Research activities include both basic and applied research in areas of food product development and food processing to enhance consumer food product quality, food safety and nutritional benefits.

Livestock Production and Management

Livestock management encompasses a very broad area of research ranging from basic research in animal biology to more applied research in commercial livestock production. Livestock research activities focus on the biological, physical and social sciences problems associated with commercial livestock production and management.

Front-facing row of cows.

Crop Genetics, Plant Breeding and Plant Heath

Research and innovation in crop genetics and plant breeding are essential for ensuring food security, sustainable agriculture and the adaptation of crops to changing environmental conditions. Advances in these fields have allowed for the development of crops with improved yields, increased resistance to pests and diseases and enhanced nutritional quality.

A man looks at plants in a greenhouse.

Wildlife Management

Louisiana is home to an incredible diversity of wildlife and wildlife habitats that provide critical ecological services, aesthetic and recreational benefits and economic opportunities to residents and visitors alike.

Biofuels, Feedstocks and Bioproducts

Demand for alternative fuels and other products made from renewable sources continues to increase as a means of protecting the environment and conserving natural resources. Research activities focus on the development of a range of bioproducts produced from renewable sources as well as the evaluation of suitable feedstocks as input into bioproduct production processes.

Invasive Species Management

Invasive species can be plants, animals or other non-native living organisms which can have substantial adverse impacts on a wide range of areas ranging from sustainability of agricultural production to conservation and protection of critical natural resources. Research activities focus on detection and identification of invasive species, estimating potential impacts and developing control measures to prevent environmental and economic losses from invasive species infestation.

A woman standing in a marshy area lets a bird free after cupping it in her hands.

Precision and Digital Agriculture

Precision agriculture is a rapidly expanding area which is transforming traditional agricultural production and decision making. Research activities focus on a range of applications of precision agriculture, from alternative uses of drone technology to the use of artificial intelligence to analyze comprehensive data sets for improved farm level decision making.

A drone flies over a field.


Throughout its history, the Cooperative Extension Service has focused on connecting research-based knowledge with local communities to improve their quality of life, enhance agricultural practices and promote overall well-being. The extension agent has always been the person sharing the knowledge. While the specific roles and responsibilities of extension agents have adapted to changing times, their commitment to serving communities remains a constant. “Our extension agents and faculty are a conduit between the communities they serve and the Land-Grant University System,” said Tara Smith, executive associate vice president and director of the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service. “By extending research-based information to the citizens of the state, we are empowering them to realize success in all aspects of daily life.” Agents in Louisiana work in the areas of agriculture and natural resources, nutrition and youth development (4-H and FFA), and their outreach covers many aspects.

A woman walks on a campground while holding camera equipment.

4-H and Youth Development

4-H agents engage youth through local 4-H clubs, outreach programs and camping to promote leadership, teamwork, civic engagement and skill-building among young people. Agents are working to develop the next generation of community leaders and agricultural professionals.

A young woman handles a reptile while letting young schoolchildren touch it.

Agricultural Education

Agricultural and natural resource agents provide farmers, ranchers and agricultural producers with up-to-date information and research on best practices, crop management, pest control, soil health and more. Their efforts improve agricultural productivity, sustainability and profitability.

Environmental Conservation

Agriculture and natural resource agents provide guidance on environmental conservation practices, including sustainable agriculture, water management and conservation of natural resources.

A boat rides along a swampy area.

Disaster Preparedness and Recovery

In a state prone to natural disasters like hurricanes and floods, agents help communities prepare for and recover from these events which seem to occur with more frequency. They provide information on disaster preparedness, recovery resources and assistance in restoring agricultural operations.

Horticulture Support

Agents focused on horticulture conduct workshops, seminars and training sessions for commercial horticulture industry and home gardeners alike. A cadre of Master Gardeners assist with these efforts.

A woman checks on plants in garden rows.

Family, Food and Health

Nutrition agents offer educational programs related to nutrition, food safety and healthy living. Community-wide efforts like Healthy Communities focus on making policy, systems, and environmental changes that will result in long-term, sustainable solutions to health challenges that our communities face.

Agriculture in the remaining four priorities:

B Is for Biomedical

Biomedical work in action for agriculture includes nutrition research, nanoscale engineering aimed at nanoencapsulation of bioactive components for controlled drug release and food application, and research on smart textiles that detect fever in infants.

A woman holds a knitted cap in a room while in front of other garments.

Sibei Xia, assistant professor in the Department of Textiles, Apparel Design and Merchandising, received a grant from the Provost’s Fund for Innovation in Research to develop thermochromic clothing to track newborns’ temperatures. Photo by Annabelle Lang

C Is for Coast

Coast work in action for agriculture includes research on strategies to enhance the resilience of coastal communities against natural disasters like hurricanes and flooding, wetland management efforts, and seafood and aquaculture research and extension programs.

A woman wearing a white lab coat and standing in front of machinery holds a fish.

Evelyn Watts, LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant seafood extension specialist, showcases processing equipment at the new Seafood Processing Demonstration Laboratory at the AgCenter’s Iberia Research Station which offers seafood processors hands-on training with equipment that can be used to create value-added seafood products. Photo by Randy LaBauve

D is for Defense

Defense work in action for agriculture includes efforts in maintaining a secure food system and out-of-the box investigation on how research on insects could help with defense systems.

A man shows another man a case of jewel-toned insects.

LSU AgCenter entomologist Nathan Lord, pictured with his former graduate student Able Chow, studies iridescence in jewel beetles. Lord received a grant from the Air Force Research Lab to explore potential applications from his research in surfaces and sensors used by the military. Photo by Olivia McClure

E is for Energy

Energy work in action for agriculture includes research in bioenergy feedstock production, improving energy efficiency in agricultural production and examining impacts of energy extraction.

A man stands near equipment in a room.

Qinglin Wu, a researcher in the LSU AgCenter School of Renewable Natural Resources and the Gordon D. Cain Endowed Chair of Agriculture, oversees the Louisiana Institute for Bioproducts and Bioprocessing (LIBBi). The institute develops new biofuels, bioproducts, and bioprocessing technologies from a range of renewable agricultural and natural resources. Photo by Olivia McClure
12/1/2023 6:14:30 PM
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The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture