The late H. Rouse Caffey, former LSU AgCenter chancellor, and Steve Linscombe, rice breeder and director of the LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station, have been honored as the newest selections for the Louisiana Agricultural Consultants Association Hall of Fame.
The honors were made the first day, Feb. 17, of the LACA’s annual three-day Agricultural Technology and Management Conference. Consultants hear updates on management for Louisiana’s major crops.
Linscombe remembered Caffey as a mentor who often gave advice.
“He understood the importance of keeping research and extension on the cutting edge,” Linscombe said.
Caffey, director of Rice Research Station from 1962 until 1970, was credited by Linscombe for the station’s success. “The station has become the nation’s premier rice research station,” Linscombe said.
Caffey was LSU AgCenter chancellor from 1984 until 1997.
“Because of his efforts, the LSU AgCenter was a leader to many developing nations,” Linscombe said.
Belle Caffey Chatelain, Caffey’s daughter, said her father grew up in the Mississippi Delta on a cotton farm, and his family didn’t get electricity until he was in the third grade.
In high school, Caffey’s 2-acre cotton crop won a 4-H competition, and he won the prize of a trip to Chicago. “That was the start of his travels,” Chatelain said.
Caffey enjoyed traveling around the globe to educate farmers, she said. “I know it was his heart’s desire that no one would go hungry.”
Eric Webster, LSU AgCenter weed scientist, said Linscombe has secured $17 million in grants for the AgCenter during his 34-year career. He has developed 32 of the 52 rice varieties released from the station, and many of those varieties have dominated acreage in the southern U.S. rice-growing states.
Webster said yields have increased to 7,500 pounds an acre -- a 1,900-pound jump since 2002.
Webster met the late Nobel Prize laureate Norman Borlaug, who is the father of the Green Revolution and was considered the No. 1 plant breeder worldwide. “I know who No. 2 is,” Webster said of Linscombe.
Linscombe credited his co-workers and his wife, Judy, for his success.
“This is one of the more significant honors,” he said. “I like to think of this group as real people.”
Also at the conference, Diane Schuster, LSU AgCenter and LSU College of Agriculture development director, said efforts are close to securing all of the funding for the $300,000 Dorothy and Ray Young Fellowship to help graduate students in agriculture with their education.
Rogers Leonard, LSU AgCenter vice president, said it’s not clear how the state’s current budget problems will affect research and Extension efforts for the AgCenter.
“The problem is, the numbers keep changing,” he said. “We really don’t know what we’re going to end up with.”
He said the dairy research programs at the AgCenter Southeast Research Station are being significantly reduced, and restructuring of several other stations is inevitable to increase efficiency.
Several members of the LSU AgCenter faculty were among the presenters at the conference.
AgCenter pesticide safety education coordinator Kim Pope detailed worker protection standards for pesticide applicators that will go into effect in January 2017. She said new training requirements effective in January 2018 will require annual training for pesticide handling. Currently, training is required every three years.
New workers will have to be trained immediately, and the five-day grace period will be eliminated, she said. No minimum age currently is in place for pesticide handlers, but that will change to age 18. In addition, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards will become effective for respirators.
Exemptions will apply for family members, and the definition of who is a family member will be expanded.
AgCenter entomologist Jeff Davis said the soybean looper is a difficult-to-control insect pest that will cause a loss of six bushels an acre with just 10 percent defoliation.
The spinosyn insecticides are still effective. “That’s the only thing I have that I know will work, at least for this year,” Davis said.
He said it’s not known where the insects that migrate into Louisiana are coming from.
AgCenter entomologist David Kerns said controlling Johnsongrass is a good control measure for sugarcane aphids that overwinter in the weed.
Scouting grain sorghum for sugarcane aphids is essential because of the threat they pose to a crop, and they can double in population in three days, he said. “If you miss five days with this pest and you’ve got high numbers, you’re finished.”
Choosing a grain sorghum hybrid with resistance is the best answer, Kerns said. But even the selection of a resistant hybrid doesn’t mean it won’t be necessary to spray an insecticide for the aphids, he cautioned. Seed treatments also provide some protection.
AgCenter rice specialist Dustin Harrell said nutrient uptake by rice plants is affected by soil pH.
Harrell said phosphorous is best applied at planting. When soil test values fall in the “very low” category, 60 pounds per acre is recommended, but an additional 30 pounds are needed if a field will be second-cropped.
Harrell said nitrogen should be applied to dry ground before permanent flood establishment. But in years like 2015, when soil was slow to dry, preflood applications may have to be split into multiple applications. He said it is a waste of money to use a urease inhibitor with fertilizer applied in a flood.
AgCenter cotton specialist Dan Fromme said farmers may be tempted to use conventional seed because of its cheaper price. “If you’re going to try it, try a little,” he said
Two to three plants per foot of row is the optimum plant population, he said. Nitrogen at 80 pounds per acre is best, but too much nitrogen will hurt yields.
Fromme said total defoliation is not required before harvest. “You don’t have to have every leaf off.”
AgCenter nematologist Charles Overstreet said the 2015 cotton crop had the highest nematode population he’s ever seen during his 37-year career.
Rotating cotton with corn and grain sorghum can help control nematodes in Louisiana. Some soybean varieties have nematode resistance, he said.
AgCenter sugarcane specialist Kenneth Gravois said the variety HoCP96-540 continues to prove its value as the leading choice, with LO1-299 increasing.
Sugarcane yields have continued to increase since 1963, but the biggest upturn started in the 1980s with better quality seed cane. In the early 1990s, he said, the release of LCP 85-384 resulted in a yield increase.
At one time, he said, more than 200 pounds of sugar out of a ton of cane was exceptional, but that has now become the rule.