Ron Levy LSU AgCenter soybean specialist talks about a soybean plant from a plant population study during a field day at the LSU AgCenter Dean Lee Research and Extension Center near Alexandria

Ron Levy, LSU AgCenter soybean specialist, talks about a soybean plant from a plant population study during a field day at the LSU AgCenter Dean Lee Research and Extension Center near Alexandria.

Farmers hear Louisiana crops still have good potential

Despite difficult growing season, Louisiana crops still have potential. Dean Lee hosts July field day.

Louisiana’s corn, cotton and soybean crops still have the potential to be above average this year, but because of the weather, don’t expect any record yields, LSU AgCenter experts said at the July 9 Dean Lee Research and Extension Center field day.

Dan Fromme, LSU AgCenter cotton and corn specialist, said this year’s heavy rainfall probably will prevent the state from having another record average yield.

The 2015 cotton crop could be as high as 130,000 acres, so it may not be the lowest total for the state. “This year may not break our record low of 2013 when we had 125,000 acres.”

Fromme said waterlogged soil hampered crop development and showed a cotton plant root system that showed conditions of excessive moisture.

Fromme is part of a multistate study of potassium deficiency in soil for cotton. In addition, he has cotton variety trials, a hail simulation study and research into early-season fungicide applications.

Fromme said this year’s corn crop has had to endure heavy rain, high winds and some hail.

Reaching the 2014 statewide yield of 180 bushels an acre will be difficult for this year’s crop, but it’s likely to be in the 160-bushel range. The crop at Dean Lee is likely to reach the black layer stage next week.

Some farmers have complained about corn ears not filling grain at the tips, and Fromme said cloudy weather and excess ground moisture probably caused that condition.

Ron Levy, LSU AgCenter soybean specialist, said last year’s statewide soybean yield of 57 bushels per acre, the highest state average in the nation, won’t be exceeded by this year’s crop.

Wet, cloudy weather has held the crop back, and farmers were unable to plant early. Getting seed in the ground early is beneficial for soybeans, he said. “We want to have soybeans producing fruit when it’s cooler.”

Levy said a plant population study is showing it’s possible to have only 47,000 plants per acre, but the low amount must have ideal conditions to perform well. The AgCenter currently recommends 80,000 to 120,000 plants per acre when planting on time and under favorable conditions. 

Soybeans in a low plant population will compensate and produce more pods, while plants in a high population will grow taller to compete for sunlight. But a denser plant population will result in reduced air flow and higher moisture that can increase disease pressure and make fungicide applications in the thick canopy more difficult.

Julien Beuzelin, AgCenter entomologist, said the sugarcane aphid is a widespread pest in grain sorghum again this year. Strategies for fighting the pest include early planting, seed treatments and careful variety selection. The insecticide Transform is available to treat fields for the pest, and a new insecticide, Sivanto, is now available.

Beuzelin advised farmers to scout twice a week for the insect.

Jeff Davis, AgCenter entomologist, said redbanded stinkbugs are being reported in soybeans throughout the state, although they are not as bad this year as they were in 2009. The stinkbugs are expected to be found in higher numbers in late-planted soybeans.

Studies have shown that cover crops, including white crimson clover, are the best hosts for the kudzu bug.

Trey Price, AgCenter plant pathologist, said no products are available for good treatment of frogeye leafspot and Cercospora in soybeans because most of the disease populations are resistant to strobilurins.

Price has been getting reports of soybean disease on this year’s crop. “There’s a fair amount of frogeye out there.”

A so-called “mystery disease” is being reported in Louisiana with plants that produce spotted leaves and blackened, rotting roots. Price is working with his fellow pathologists in Mississippi and Arkansas to identify the pathogen.  

The condition is found most often in no-till fields, and crop rotation is a good strategy to prevent it.

Josh Lofton, AgCenter agronomist, said using a cover crop can save money on nitrogen fertilizer and still produce good yields. A cover crop is typically planted in the fall, but it must be eliminated before planting.

David Kerns, LSU AgCenter entomologist, said cotton thrips have not been bad this year because the heavy rains have knocked many of the insects off the plants. Cotton aphids appeared at blooming. “They like a nice, lush canopy.”

Kerns advised farmers not to spray acephate or pyrethroid insecticides until later in the season. “That way we keep our beneficials as long as possible.”

Randy Price, AgCenter engineer, and Jimmy Flanagan, AgCenter agent in St. Mary Parish, talked about using drones in agriculture and demonstrated how the devices fly.

Flanagan said farmers may be interested in using the devices for monitoring irrigation systems, while Price said they will help ranchers get a preview of cattle before an online auction.

Drones also can be used to photograph fields using a series of images, but compiling the pictures into one overall image is time-consuming and requires extremely large computers.

Daniel Stephenson, AgCenter weed scientist, said thorough tank washing will become more important with the new soybeans and cotton that are resistant to dicamba and 2,4-D herbicides.

The new technology will help farmers fight herbicide-resistant weeds, but it also will result in more drift complaints.

Chemical companies provide detailed instructions for tank cleaning, Stephenson said. “It is a minimum of an hour-and-a-half process.”

Stephenson also said pigweed resistant to glyphosate will not be eliminated by 2,4-D. Glyphosate-resistant water hemp was found two weeks ago in Grant and Rapides parishes.

After the field tour, Bill Richardson, LSU vice president for agriculture, thanked the audience for their help during the past legislative session. He said the issues were large, and the solutions few. But the LSU AgCenter came through with a flat budget instead of one with drastic cuts.

Richardson encouraged everyone to keep contacting state legislators and ask their support for the AgCenter’s research and extension programs.

Mike Strain, commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, was also pleased that the Legislature did not drastically cut his budget. “We have a new Legislature coming in, and we need to re-educate them about the importance of agriculture to this state. It’s our largest industry.”

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