(12/15/22) BATON ROUGE, La. — The LSU AgCenter is celebrating 50 years of advancing agricultural excellence in Louisiana.
In 1972, the LSU Board of Supervisors established the LSU AgCenter, requesting that agricultural activities have an identity separate from that of the existing campuses.
For nearly 100 years prior to that, scientists in Louisiana were already developing innovations for agriculture, and extension agents blanketed the state to provide residents with educational information on agriculture.
“It is a proud history the LSU AgCenter was built upon, and in the past 50 years, the AgCenter has continued to innovate, educate and improve the lives of Louisiana citizens through research, extension and teaching,” said Tara Smith, AgCenter interim executive associate vice president and director of the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service.
The AgCenter’s focus areas include plants and animals, natural resources, food and nutrition, and youth development.
The LSU AgCenter has a robust plant breeding program, providing high-quality crops that can handle Louisiana’s tough climate but are also preferred by growers in other states.
Varieties developed in the past 50 years by LSU AgCenter scientists such as Clearfield rice, the Beauregard sweet potato and the sugarcane variety LCP 85-384 were all game changers in their industries when introduced.
“Research by agronomists, entomologists, plant pathologists and weed scientists has allowed farmers to yield more while also lessening agriculture’s impact on the environment,” said Michael Salassi, AgCenter interim executive associate vice president and director of the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station.
Programs such as Master Farmer, Master Cattleman and Master Gardener have equipped participants with resources to implement best management practices, improve productivity and address environmental issues such as water quality and soil health.
In the area of natural resources, studies of insects and birds found along the coast have been used as bioindicators of climate change and coastal land health, and invasive species management has helped safeguard natural resources. Also, the development of wood composites has led to the use of wood in nontraditional applications.
The LSU AgCenter has been a leader in improving the health and wellness of Louisiana residents.
“In order to make the lives of Louisiana citizens better, the AgCenter provides evidence-based nutrition information,” said Gina E. Eubanks, associate vice president and program leader for nutrition and food sciences. “The AgCenter also identifies gaps and disparities that may exist in urban and rural communities.”
The Healthy Communities program has broken down barriers to positive health outcomes in rural communities. Nutrition education programs such as Dining with Diabetes and Break Up with Salt have shown individuals how to manage potentially chronic illnesses. The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, the nation’s first nutrition education program for low-income residents, has used a hands-on approach to teach participants how to make behavioral changes and improve the nutritional quality of their meals.
Opened in 2008, the LaHouse Home and Landscape Resource Center has reshaped how Louisiana residents can build resilient, healthy and efficient homes and recover from natural disasters. Housing professionals can participate in LaHouse-led seminars and certification trainings, and homeowners can find certified professionals to help with home projects.
4-H has been around for more than 100 years. Toby Lepley, associate vice president and 4-H program leader, said during the past 50 years, the Louisiana 4-H program has grown and diversified the opportunities in which youth can participate.
“We have expanded from the farm to most urban areas, offering lifelong skills through projects in character, fine arts, service learning and greater leadership experiences to all youth of our state,” Lepley said.
Improvements to Camp Grant Walker have made the facility accessible to more youth. The facility has expanded to offer off-season programing, educational seminars and camps throughout the year.
Also, the Louisiana 4-H Foundation was established to help sustain the thriving youth development program. The Foundation holds permanent endowments for scholarships and for the enhancement of the Louisiana 4-H youth development program.
“With 50 years of excellence in agriculture, health, natural resources, communities and youth, the LSU AgCenter continues to lead Louisiana into a stronger future,” said Matt Lee, interim vice president for agriculture and dean of the LSU College of Agriculture.
More milestones from the past 50 years are available at LSUAgCenter.com.
Rice breeder Adam Famoso makes a cross with rice plants in his lab at the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station. AgCenter file photo by Bruce Schultz
Graduate students working in Rodrigo Diaz’s lab searched the Gulf Coast for evidence of an invasive insect, the roseau cane scale, in the fall of both 2021 and 2022. Photo by Rodrigo Diaz
Sharman Charles, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program director with the LSU AgCenter, discusses the history of the EFNEP in New Orleans. AgCenter file photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter
4-H’ers, including Lafayette Parish’s Nikki Salehi, right, paddle canoes around a pond at Camp Grant Walker. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter