AgCenter presents virtual field day from Dean Lee

(07/20/20) ALEXANDRIA, La. — The first virtual LSU AgCenter Dean Lee Research and Extension Center field tour included 17 presentations loaded with information for agricultural crops, beef cattle and horticulture.

Videos of the presentations are online at and will remain available for viewing for several months.

Bill Richardson, LSU vice president for agriculture, said research at the Dean Lee facility has continued this year despite the pandemic and a tornado that destroyed many of the buildings on April 22. “We are going to rebuild bigger and stronger than we were before,” he said.

The AgCenter is committed to diversity. “We are here to serve all the citizens of the state,” Richardson said.

Tara Smith, director of the AgCenter Central Region, said the Dean Lee faculty had hoped to have an in-person event, but the pandemic changed that. She encouraged viewers to contact researchers. “We hope you’ll reach out to our faculty for additional updates,” she said.

AgCenter vice president for plant and animal science Mike Salassi said Dean Lee contributes significantly to Louisiana agriculture, which is a major part of the state’s economy. “Thank goodness with today’s technology, we’re able to bring you the field day electronically,” he said.

For agricultural crops, eight presenters talked about their work.

AgCenter agricultural engineer Randy Price described in his video demonstration two drone systems that farmers could use to analyze their crop progress.

He said a high-end system costing $8,000 to $10,000 may not be best for most farmers. “We do find that a lot of people get these, and they haven’t used them as much as they thought they would because of the technology and cost,” he said.

A $400 drone made by DGI is a good option for farmers wanting to try the technology.

Price also talked about a small handheld crop sensor made by Trimble that can be used to measure plant health and growth. “This is a good device to allow you to see actual numbers of what’s growing better,” he said.

AgCenter entomologist Sebe Brown said as corn matures, damage from insects will be evident. But it’s unlikely to cause significant losses.

Considerable research has been conducted on the possible connection between earworms and aflatoxin in corn. “We still can’t find a cause-effect relationship between aflatoxin and earworms or some kind of ear-feeding worm,” he said.

The best way to stay ahead of worms in corn is to plant early, between early March and early April.

AgCenter cotton specialist Dan Fromme talked about gauging a crop’s potential by counting the branches above a plant’s first flower.

Ten branches, or nodes, indicate excellent potential, he said, but more than 10 indicate excessive growth.

AgCenter sugarcane specialist Kenneth Gravois spoke at Harper Farms near Cheneyville, where a cold-tolerant sugarcane variety test is being conducted. Most of the increase in Louisiana sugarcane acreage is occurring in northern parishes.

Work is underway to get approval to use the insecticide Sivanto on the West Indian canefly, sugarcane aphid and yellow sugarcane aphid.

Herman Waguespack, of the American Sugar Cane League, said a new variety, Ho 13-739, was released this past spring. The variety has shown good cold tolerance, and growers are encouraged to get seed cane.

AgCenter weed scientist Daniel Stephenson demonstrated effective removal of Palmer amaranth plants from a field. Herbicides will not control the weed after it has grown to a large size, and control at that point is successful by chopping with a hoe.

Stephenson showed that the plant’s roots must be chopped to prevent it from regrowing. “You have to get below the soil surface,” he said.

Plants that are pulled out of the ground will reestablish in the soil unless the roots are cleaned of soil and allowed to dry.

AgCenter plant pathologist Boyd Padgett said this year’s soybean crop is doing well.

Cercospora leaf blight is consistently the most detrimental soybean disease. “We don’t have any fungicides that completely manage this disease,” he said.

Padgett is testing 158 varieties to determine their disease susceptibility to help growers with variety selection.

Corn is showing some Southern rust and Northern corn leaf blight. Padgett is conducting studies that will help producers select effective fungicides for corn.

AgCenter soybean specialist David Moseley talked about his research and explained soybean growth.

One study involves six planting dates, March 19 through June 15, with maturity groups 3.9 through 5.4. The same work is being done in south and northeast Louisiana.

Knowing the growth and development of a crop will help growers with scheduling irrigation and pesticide applications, he said.

Beef cattle had five presentations.

AgCenter forage specialist Ed Twidwell said hay fields should be fertilized to replenish nutrients. Cutting a ton of hay depletes the soil of 50 pounds of nitrogen, 12 pounds of phosphorous, 6 pounds of sulfur and 50 pounds of potassium.

Cutting hay for dairy cows and horses should be done every 30 days, while 40 to 50 days is good for beef cattle.

Twidwell said bermudagrass out yields Bahia, which is better for grazing.

AgCenter extension agent for animal sciences Ashley Edwards demonstrated how body condition scoring is done for cattle.

Cattle build fat from front to back and top to bottom. Cattle do best with a mid-range score. “You don’t want extremes. We shoot for the 5 to 6 range,” she said.

A cow should score a 5 at breeding and a 6 for calving, especially for heifers. For a 1,000-pound cow to advance from a score of 5 to 6 requires 80 pounds of fat, she said.

Dr. Chance Armstrong, large animal clinician at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, demonstrated a proper bull breeding soundness exam. In the video presentation, Armstrong analyzed semen by using a microscope and conducted a physical examination of a bull.

“Every bull should be checked every year before the breeding season, approximately 45 to 60 days before turning him out,” Armstrong said. “For every dollar you invest in this, there’s a $7 return.”

AgCenter beef cattle nutritionist Guillermo Scaglia showed the use of nose clips for weaning calves that prevent calves from nursing and are less stressful than conventional weaning.

Another technique involves placing calves and cows in separate paddocks. “They are just separated by a fence. Basically, you are breaking the bond where they cannot touch each other,” he said.

Calves that were fence-line weaned gained nearly a pound per day in the first week after weaning, compared to three quarters of a pound for calves with nose clips, and a quarter pound for conventional weaning, Scaglia said.

AgCenter weed scientist Ron Strahan said a new herbicide, Rezilon, will be released in August. “I think it’s going to be very good for bermudagrass hay producers,” he said.

Rezilon is effective as a pre-emerge herbicide on crabgrass, goosegrass, volunteer ryegrass and other annual grasses, and it has a long residual period.

Establishing a new hay meadow requires pre-emerge and postemerge herbicides. “During that critical period, we’re trying to buy time to get that area established with as little weed pressure as possible,” Strahan said.

The horticulture segment had four presenters.

AgCenter forestry agent Robbie Hutchins said an annual tree inspection is recommended to detect potential problems. Photographs can be taken to track possible changes in trees, and an inspection should be done to look for splits, cracks, and dead or dying branches.

AgCenter agents can provide recommendations for tree problems, but often landowners wait until a problem has progressed to a point where a solution can be costly, he said.

AgCenter horticulturist Keith Hawkins showed the difference between a good branch attachment to a tree and a potentially weak branch attachment. A sharp ‘V’ is a weak point because it invites decay, but a U-shaped attachment is strong.

Hawkins showed a large crack in a live oak tree that appeared to be likely to fail. Problem branches can be mitigated by an arborist, and a small tree can be pruned.

AgCenter state Master Gardener coordinator Sara Shields showed two plants grown in the native plant demonstration garden at Dean Lee.

She talked about American beautyberry and Little Henry, a cultivar of sweetspire. Both flowering plants grow in a wide range of soil types and light conditions.

Michael Polozola, AgCenter horticulture agent and statewide contact for pecans, talked about how strawberries can be grown in containers, either for fruit or foliage. He showed viewers a demonstration of 12 varieties grown in containers at Dean Lee.

Shallow terra cotta pots are good for strawberries. “This is perfect for strawberries because they don’t have a very deep or extensive root system,” he said.

The terra cotta wicks excess moisture, and the pots show a color change that indicates watering is needed.

dean lee aerial photo.JPG thumbnail

Aerial photo of LSU AgCenter Dean Lee Research and Extension Center near Alexandria, Louisiana. Drone photo by Randy Price/LSU AgCenter

7/20/2020 4:13:15 PM
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