AgCenter experts review programs for crop consultants

Bruce Schultz  |  2/19/2019 5:00:42 PM

(02/19/19) MARKSVILLE, La. — Numerous LSU AgCenter experts made presentations at the Louisiana Agricultural Consultants Association annual Agriculture Technology and Management Conference on Feb. 11 to 13.

About 300 people attended the event.

Crop consultants are hired by farmers to provide advice and recommendations on production practices and products.

Stacia Davis Conger, AgCenter irrigation specialist at the Red River Research Station, said an irrigation study showed water distribution is best obtained when water was surged across the field two to four times a day, using below-ground sensors to determine if adequate moisture has been obtained for a crop.

Sensors were placed at depths of 4 inches, 14 inches, 24 inches and 34 inches to indicate when adequate moisture levels were reached, she said.

AgCenter plant scientist Brenda Tubaña said zinc is essential for a plant’s production of growth hormones. Cotton plants show signs of zinc deficiency with shorter, cupped leaves.

AgCenter economist Mike Deliberto said cotton acreage nationwide is likely to increase to 14.5 million acres, an increase of 400,000, and the cotton supply for 2018-19 has decreased due to adverse weather in the Southeast. “The overall market trend is choppy as trade uncertainties and increased acreage weigh on the market,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects the 2018-19 price at 72 cents per pound. The trade projects new crop futures prices in range of 62 to 79 cents, he said.

The Chinese economy is slowing because of the ongoing trade war, Deliberto said, but China has the option of buying Brazilian cotton, and the Brazil cotton crop is expected to be larger this year. U.S. cotton exports sales had been reported to Vietnam and India.

AgCenter pest management specialist Al Orgeron said sugarcane farmers should plant no more than 50 to 60 percent of their fallow acres in soybeans. The cost of growing soybeans compared to maintaining fallow ground is about $150 an acre.

Last year’s disastrous soybean crop resulted in many fields left unharvested, he said, and one farmer left 1,800 acres of beans in the field.

Orgeron said soybeans should be planted from April 1 to 15.

AgCenter corn and cotton specialist Dan Fromme said the levels of phosphorous and potassium in Louisiana soils are among some of the lowest in the U.S.

Row crop fields would produce a better crop if potassium and phosphorous were added to the soil when levels were low. Raising the level of phosphorous by 1 part per million requires 10 to 30 pounds of phosphorous per acre, he said.

Using lime to increase soil pH is a challenge in a no-till field. Fromme suggested fixing the pH level in a field before using the no-till practice.

AgCenter research associate Brian Ward said a seven-state study of Cercospora leaf blight resistance showed no commercial soybean varieties are truly resistant to the disease. But some have been identified that are tolerant and some sources of soybean germplasm are resistant. The degree of resistance may vary by soil type, and a laboratory screening method is under development, he said.

AgCenter plant pathologist Trey Price said irrigation water salt levels are high in some areas in north Louisiana.“You can kill soybean varieties with well water in Winnsboro,” he said.

Soybean taproot decline is caused by the fungi Xylaria, and the disease is found in Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas and Alabama. Price said it appears that the disease occurs when seed comes into contact with infected remains of a previous crop.

Most soybean varieties are susceptible, but some have resistance, he said. Studies are being conducted to determine if rotation, tillage or fungicides can reduce outbreaks of the disease.

Keith Collins, AgCenter agent in Richland Parish, detailed a study of row rice used in Richland, Tensas and Morehouse parishes. All fields had been planted in soybeans in 2017.

Farmer Jason Waller, who had the field in Morehouse Parish, said it was the first time he had planted rice in March, and it was stunted by cold weather. “I dare say I won’t do it again,” he said.

Waller said the rice planted on April 28 caught up with the rice planted on March 27.

Collins said the cost per acre varied. They ranged from $594 in Tensas Parish with a yield of 239 bushels or 66 barrels to $603 in Richland with a yield of 235 bushels or 65 barrels, and $627 in Morehouse, with a yield of 216 bushels or 60 barrels.

Bill Richardson, LSU vice president for agriculture, said the AgCenter budget has been stabilized during the past two years, but legislators still need to be reminded of the importance of agriculture and the LSU AgCenter’s role.

Several personnel changes have been made to improve AgCenter capabilities. Agents are specializing in different areas, and they are not restricted by parish lines, Richardson said.

Sebe Brown has been named a statewide entomologist to handle entomology for cotton, corn, soybeans and grain sorghum, and Daniel Stephenson will be the statewide weed specialist for corn, cotton, grain sorghum and wheat.

Brown made a presentation at the conference on using a virus to control worm pests in soybeans.

Boyd Padgett is stepping down as director of the Central Region and will be the interim soybean specialist. Tara Smith has moved from director of the Northeast Region to director of the Central Region, and Melissa Cater is director of the Northeast Region.

Also, Heather Kirk-Ballard is the new state consumer horticulturist replacing Dan Gill, who has retired. Matt Foster will be handing soybeans and sugarcane in the River Parishes.

Richardson said the recent AgCenter technology conference was a success, drawing considerable interest that shows producers are adopting technology. But he said adoption of technology in agriculture is hampered because broadband access in rural areas is limited nationwide.

The LSU College of Agriculture is doing well at recruiting. “We’re getting some really good students coming in to agriculture,” Richardson said.

“One of the biggest pushes we’re making is raising private money for scholarships,” he said.

The college has a goal of raising $500,000 in private scholarship funds. Scholarships from private funding sources totaled $265,000 this year.

Mike Strain, commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, said work will begin this year to dredge the lower Mississippi River to a consistent depth of 55 feet.

Half of the nation’s grain is shipped out of the Mississippi, and the improvement will boost that number to 70 percent as larger ships are able to navigate the river. “Every major player on the river is expanding for these ships,” he said.

Strain said he expects to see more corn planted this year because of the uncertainty with soybeans, and cotton could increase acreage also. Soybean acreage could decline by 10 to 15 percent, he said.

Other LSU AgCenter presenters were:


Justin Dufour, AgCenter agent in Avoyelles Parish, who detailed Stephenson’s research of ragweed and other weeds.

Rogers Leonard, AgCenter associate vice president, who gave an update on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Scientific Advisory Panel.

Luciano Shiratsuchi, AgCenter farm technology specialist, who talked about data-driven precision agriculture.

Josh Copes, AgCenter weed scientist, who made a presentation on terminating cover crops.

Blake Wilson, AgCenter entomologist, who talked about sugarcane and rice insect pests.

Jeff Hoy, AgCenter plant pathologist, who addressed brown stripe and mosaic diseases in sugarcane.

Randy Price, AgCenter engineer, who gave an update on sugarcane yield monitoring.

Kenneth Gravois, LSU AgCenter sugarcane specialist, who talked about using gypsum in sugarcane production.

Don Groth, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist, who gave an update on rice diseases.

Dustin Harrell, LSU AgCenter rice extension specialist, who gave an update on rice fertility.

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