La. sugar acres up, crop looks good, expert says

(07/18/16) JEANERETTE, La. – Sugarcane acreage increased this year, and the 2016 crop has excellent potential, the LSU AgCenter sugarcane specialist said July 15 at an LSU AgCenter sugarcane field day for Iberia, St. Mary and Vermilion parishes.

“I think we have a good crop out there,” said AgCenter sugarcane specialist Kenneth Gravois.

The current estimate of 440,000 acres is an increase of 30,000 acres from the past two years. Part of the increase resulted from several farmers starting to grow cane this year. Also, the mild winter allowed more older sugarcane to produce an additional year’s crop, he said

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has estimated that the Louisiana crop has the potential to produce 1.6 million tons of sugar. But Gravois said some of that could be lost to pests such as the West Indian canefly.

Disease also could rob some of the yield. Spraying fungicides for rust is prudent to protect yield, he said.

Gravois said 42 percent of the varieties developed for Florida have a gene to protect against rust, but the only Louisiana variety that has the gene is L 01-299.

Farmers also heard about the benefits and drawbacks of L 01-299 and HoCP 09-804, two new sugarcane varieties with excellent yield potential.

The HoCP 09-804 variety was developed by the USDA Sugarcane Research Unit in Houma and was released for commercial production in 2016. Seedcane of the new variety will be distributed by the American Sugar Cane League next month.

“This is a good variety. You need to get your hands on it,” Gravois said.

Edwis Dufrene of the USDA said HoCP 09-804 yield potential is second only to L 01-299. He said subsequent-year, or stubble, crops are better than other varieties except L 01-299.

Sugar production is good. “Except for HoCP 00-950, this is probably one of the sweetest-yielding varieties,” Dufrene said.

HoCP 09-804 is susceptible to mosaic disease, but good seedcane sources will eliminate most of that problem. So far, he said, mosaic has not shown up on HoCP 09-804 grown in the Bayou Teche area.

L 01-299 is probably the top choice for heavy soils, but HoCP 09-804 is the second-best choice, Dufrene said.

Atticus Finger, agronomist for the American Sugar Cane League, said L 01-299 is susceptible to smut. “That’s what held it back and delayed its release for one year.”

But L 01-299 has excellent potential for stubble crops, Finger said. L 01-299 probably will overtake HoCP 96-540 as the leading variety in 2016.

AgCenter agronomist Sonny Viator said research is underway to learn why sugarcane doesn’t show any effects when nutrients are added to soil. "We are attempting to gain an understanding of why sugarcane often fails to respond to the application of fertilizer phosphorus, potassium and sulphur," he said.

The AgCenter is recommending 60 pounds of nitrogen for plant cane on light soils and 120 pounds on stubble in heavy soils.

A federally funded study of burning shows that using fire to remove residue after harvest doesn’t distribute the smoke and burned remains as far as a standing fire used before harvest, Viator said. The study also confirmed that the guidelines for burning cane fields are appropriate and effective.

Tests have shown that stubble cane loses up to 800 pounds of sugar per acre because the plants have to regrow through the post-harvest material, he said.

Macandol Parker of the Natural Resources Conservation Service said NRCS will pay $60 to $80 an acre to farmers who allow the harvest residue to remain on the ground until Feb. 15.

AgCenter pest management specialist Al Orgeron said a fallow field should remain undisturbed for at least seven days after a glyphosate application to allow the herbicide to move throughout weed to kill the plants.

A new nightshade plant, yet to be positively identified, is becoming more of a problem throughout the state’s cane growing areas. Orgeron said preemergent chemical control for the weed could cost up to $45 an acre.

Jim Simon, American Sugar Cane League general manager, said Cuba poses little competitive threat to American sugar growers because that country’s agricultural needs billions of dollars of improvements. He said the process of restoring diplomatic and trade relations will be lengthy.

AgCenter soil fertility specialist Brenda Tubaña talked about her work using an optical remote sensor to determine the amount of biomass in specific areas of a field. That information can be used to reduce and vary the amount of fertilizer applied.

Three sugarcane farms where the system was used showed profit increases of $27 an acre, $156 an acre and $215 an acre from increased yields or money saved on fertilizer where a reduced amount was needed, she said.

AgCenter entomologist Julien Beuzelin said research is being done on the West Indian canefly to determine a threshold for spraying. The insecticide Karate can be sprayed, but the chemical can result in an increase in aphids.

An emergency label for two products, Intruder and Strafer, was granted this year, but they are more expensive than pyrethroids, he said.

AgCenter entomologist Blake Wilson said the Mexican rice borer continues to move east in Louisiana and was found this year in Lafayette Parish. Some rice fields have shown losses this year, but the borers have not been found in sugarcane yet.

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LSU AgCenter agronomist Sonny Viator talks about his work on adding phosphorous, potassium and sulphur to soil in sugarcane fields during an LSU AgCenter sugarcane field day on July 15. Photo by Bruce Schultz

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LSU AgCenter pest management specialist Al Orgeron advises farmers on controlling weeds in fallow fields during an LSU AgCenter sugarcane field day on July 15. Photo by Bruce Schultz

7/18/2016 7:12:19 PM
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