Farmers who assume the soil in their fields is uniform could be shortchanging their crop with too much or not enough nitrogen.

“It’s not as uniform as you think,” advised Sonny Viator, LSU AgCenter agronomist, at the recent Sugarcane Field Day held for farmers in Iberia, St. Mary and Vermilion parishes.

Viator, also director of the LSU AgCenter Iberia Research Station, said less nitrogen is needed on lighter soils, and more is required for clay soils.Electrical conductivity analysis of fields will determine the variations in soil compositions. This analysis involves GPS technology to produce a map of the differences in soil makeup.

But Viator said a yield monitor in development for sugarcane will provide farmers with a much clearer picture of where fertilizer amounts should be adjusted. “Our soils are not very uniform, and our cane reflects that.”

Jim Griffin, LSU AgCenter weed scientist, said the herbicide Sencor provides good control of bermudagrass. He said the chemical’s cost has decreased and “it is the safest herbicide we use in cane.”

However, Sencor is not effective at controlling raoulgrass or itchgrass.

Gene Reagan, LSU AgCenter entomologist, said the Mexican rice borer has not been detected any farther east in Louisiana since it was found in the state two years ago near the Texas state line. He said the highest numbers of the insect were found in the rice-growing areas near Beaumont, Texas.

Jeff Hoy, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist, said rust has not been a problem for sugarcane in 2010. He said a healthy seed program for cane is important for controlling diseases.

Collins Kimbeng and Michael Pontif, LSU AgCenter sugarcane breeders, described the process of developing new varieties. Pontif said the variety 540 is the benchmark, and more than half of this year’s crop consists of that variety.

Ken Gravois, LSU AgCenter sugarcane specialist, said the new variety 371 appears to be susceptible to borer insects, but it has good disease resistance.

Steve Linscombe, director of the LSU AgCenter’s Southwest Region, warned of a possible 23 percent budget cut that will lead to elimination of some programs provided by the LSU AgCenter. He urged contacting legislators to make them aware of the effects the cuts will have on agriculture.

Michael Salassi, LSU AgCenter economist, said the good prices for sugar last year should continue. Acreage has declined slightly in Louisiana and in other sugar producing states.

“Our supply is still very tight. As it stands right now, it looks like these prices are going to hold through this year,” he said.