Louisiana farmers hear updates on crops, research

Large variety of topics covered at St. Joe, La., field day. Early crops largely look good.

Farmers heard the latest from LSU AgCenter experts on their research and outreach projects at the AgCenter Northeast Research Station annual field day on June 16.

About 145 people attended the event, which featured presentations on managing diseases, insects and weeds in row crops.

Trey Price, AgCenter plant pathologist, said heavy rains earlier this season caused some cases of rootless corn syndrome. He’s also seen northern corn leaf blight in some hybrids, but at levels much lower than last year. The disease can be effectively managed with fungicides, but most fields won’t require treatment.

Common rust, which is unsightly but not a major concern, is more prevalent than usual. And Southern rust has shown up recently in south and central Louisiana.

“Be vigilant about scouting your younger corn because this disease can move quickly on you,” said Price, adding that most corn in Louisiana is far enough along that treatment isn’t necessary.

Seedling diseases have cropped up in late-planted soybeans, and seed treatments could be helpful, Price said.

Soybean rust was discovered recently in Iberville Parish, but farmers shouldn’t panic because hot summer temperatures will keep the disease at bay.

Cotton farmers should scout their fields carefully for target spot disease as blooming approaches and make sure canopies are well managed.

Farmers encountered high populations of Southern root knot and reniform nematodes last year, and it’s not yet clear what implications that may have for this year, said Charlie Overstreet, AgCenter nematologist. He told attendees about his studies on a growing number of products available to control nematodes.

Josh Copes, AgCenter weed scientist, talked about how using different water volumes and sprayer tips can affect herbicide effectiveness. He showed attendees soybean plots treated with herbicides mixed with 7.5 gallons compared with 15 gallons of water, the latter of which provides better control because the herbicide can better move through the plant canopy and contact weeds.

Using flat fan sprayer nozzles instead of air induction tips creates smaller droplets, which also helps improve coverage, Copes said.

Donnie Miller, AgCenter weed scientist, said two new herbicide technologies — the Xtend and Enlist systems — should hit the market soon and offer more options in the fight against glyphosate-resistant weeds like Palmer amaranth. Still, making timely applications before weeds are too big and incorporating residual herbicides remain critical steps to effective weed control.

Miller said some states are starting to see weeds resistant to PPO herbicides, such as Reflex, Valor and Cobra, but the problem has not yet surfaced in Louisiana.

Eric Webster, AgCenter weed scientist, said the range of options for weed control in rice continues to grow. Webster is studying several products that include new modes of actions against aquatic, grass and broadleaf weeds.

He’s also conducting trials with the new Provisia rice herbicide system to find out which other herbicides are compatible with it.

David Kerns, AgCenter entomologist, said Transform insecticide has been approved for use in cotton. It must be reapplied after five days to prevent insect eggs from hatching.

The sugarcane aphid continues to be a problem in sugarcane and grain sorghum. “You should treat the crops when 20 percent of the leaves have 50 or more aphids,” Kerns said.

AgCenter Extension agents Dennis Burns and R.L. Frazier talked about making fertilizer applications using irrigation surge valves, which alternate the flow of water from one side of the field to another at set intervals. On the next-to-last irrigation event, farmers can use software to program a fertilizer application that the surge valve will help spread evenly through the field, Burns said.

Stacia Davis, AgCenter irrigation engineer, told attendees about a project comparing different types of soil moisture sensors. The devices’ performance can be affected by soil type.

James Hendrix, AgCenter area agent with the Louisiana Master Farmer Program, talked about studies being conducted on wheat filter strips planted along field ditches to reduce nutrient and sediment runoff. “We drill wheat along spin ditches as a filter to reduce the amount of erosion and nutrient loss from the fields, especially phosphorus, and collect the runoff for analysis.” 

Lisa Fultz, AgCenter soil scientist, is working with Hendrix on a Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality study on Lake St. Joseph, which previously was listed as an impaired watershed because of solids in the water. “This year we planted wheat around spin ditches near the lake. We found by just having something there, whether it was the wheat or the rye, we were decreasing the total dissolved water solids by 30 or 40 percent.”

Eran Robinson, with the Natural Resource Conservation Service, said his agency is working with the AgCenter on conservation projects at farms near Lake St. Joseph, Lake Bruin and Van Buren Bayou.

Ron Levy, AgCenter soybean specialist, said soybean acreage continues to increase in Louisiana. He expects 1.3 million to 1.4 million acres to be planted this year, although that figure is not final. “We’re still planting. South Louisiana has been really devastated by heavy rains, and they’re still trying to plant.”

Because Louisiana had a mild winter this year, it’s especially important for farmers to scout their fields, Levy said. The potential for damage from insects like the redbanded stinkbug and soybean looper is greater in late-planted soybeans.

Dan Fromme, AgCenter cotton and corn specialist, said cotton started blooming in some parts of the state the week of June 20. There have been no major issues this season other than the usual problems with the insect pest thrips.

Corn acres are “up significantly” in Louisiana this year and should surpass the 400,000 acres planted in the past two years, Fromme said. The state’s corn crop is doing well now despite delays some farmers had in the spring because of flooding and having to replant.

Grain sorghum is also having a good year. “I think you will see some extra special yields this year,” Fromme said.

Bill Richardson, LSU vice president for agriculture, assured attendees that the Northeast Research Station will stay open, though it may see some changes because of budget concerns that the state legislature, which is currently in a special session, has yet to resolve.

"We’re operating today with $32 million to $35 million less than where we were eight years ago,” he said, adding that repeated cuts to higher education have made it difficult to ensure the stability of key programs.

Fourteen of Louisiana’s 64 parishes currently are without an agriculture Extension agent, and programs at some research stations may face downsizing, Richardson said.

Rogers Leonard, AgCenter associate vice president, said research and Extension personnel are working closer together than ever as a result of the budget issues. Many researchers and specialists are helping with projects outside of their usual areas to make sure those efforts continue.

Leonard thanked commodity groups for their financial support of the AgCenter. “The work that goes on here is tremendously supported by you the farmers through commodity groups.”

Larry Rogers, a retired AgCenter vice chancellor who directed the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station, attended the field day at the Northeast station, where he served as director from 1974 to 1994.

Tara Smith, director of the AgCenter Northeast Region, thanked farmers and other attendees for their support and encouraged them to come to a field day with stops in East Carroll, West Carroll and Morehouse parishes on July 27.

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