On-farm demonstrations help farmers make decisions on varieties and production practices

Frances Gould, Schultz, Bruce  |  8/14/2015 11:20:26 PM

Ron Levy, LSU AgCenter soybean specialist, shows a solar panel used to power a ground moisture monitoring system in a soybean on-farm irrigation demonstration. Photo byBruce Schultz

Ron Levy, LSU AgCenter soybean specialist, said 39 on-farm soybean demonstrations were planted in 2015 across the state, including one in Washington Parish for the first time.

Unusually large amounts of rainfall caused planting to be late for Levy and for farmers. Locations along the Red River in Caddo Parish were flooded, eliminating those plots from this year’s demonstration.

"We did get them planted in most areas of the state, and most of them look good," he said. The project includes variety comparisons and demonstrations of weed, disease and insect management strategies.

The project provides the opportunity for farmers to see how well different practices perform in their respective areas of the state.

"Producers are very interested in variety development and all aspects of production that will increase their profitability," Levy said. "These demonstrations are a good venue to bring producers together to see the latest research-based information from the LSU AgCenter."

New this year is a soybean irrigation demonstration in Calcasieu, Evangeline, Madison, East and West Carroll, Tensas and Concordia parishes. Soil moisture sensors are being installed at those locations on farmers’ fields to determine when fields should be irrigated. Levy said this is an ongoing project that will be repeated for several years.

Dan Fromme, LSU AgCenter corn specialist, said the on-farm corn demonstrations show farmers how well new varieties perform in different areas of the state.

Hybrids used in the demonstrations – grown on land provided by farmers – are nominated by seed companies. "They pick their hybrid most suitable for Louisiana growing conditions," he said.

Each of the 19 locations this year has 13 hybrids represented by six companies. "The tests are valuable because hybrids change so fast," he said.

He said yield is not the only factor considered in the demonstration. Resistance to insect pests and diseases also are factors included in the testing.

Farmers provide the land, and LSU AgCenter extension agents plant the crop and harvest it, he said.

Field corn demonstrations are being conducted in the parishes of West Baton Rouge, Beauregard, Rapides, Avoyelles, East Carroll, West Carroll, Pointe Coupee, Ouachita, Concordia, Franklin, Morehouse, Tensas, St. Landry, Madison and Caldwell. Four parishes have more than one demonstration, Fromme said.

Josh Lofton, LSU AgCenter wheat specialist, said this year’s on-farm wheat demonstrations encountered the same problems and disappointing outcome faced by farmers. Of the six locations, only four could be harvested. The other two locations were lost because of excess rainfall, he said.

"The big issue was the same issue we had as a whole in the state," he said.

All four locations that were harvested had varieties affected by fusarium blight, he said.

The demonstrations used 14 varieties that showed yield potential in official variety trials directed by Steve Harrison, LSU AgCenter wheat breeder.

Lofton said the results from the on-farm demonstration will be compared to Harrison’s results to see if the results from the variety trials are matching up with the on-farm demonstrations.

Lofton said the Louisiana wheat crop could be small next year, given the 2015 results, but the demonstrations will be continued. "As long as there’s a wheat acre in this state, this work is going to continue."

Lofton also conducted three on-farm demonstrations for grain sorghum in St. Landry, Morehouse and Tensas parishes. "We had nine hybrids from all the major companies," he said.

He said difficult growing conditions will provide a good evaluation test of the hybrids’ abilities to withstand heavy pressure from insects, adverse weather and heavy disease pressure.

Lofton said 2015 proved to be a bad year for disease development in grain sorghum, particularly anthracnose, because of the early-season wet weather. A low number of sugarcane aphids were being reported, but sorghum midge populations were larger than usual, he said.

Bruce Schultz

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