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Ted Broussard starting producing soybeans to improve soil tilth in his sugarcane fallow ground. Today, at $16 a bushel, they're starting to turn a nice profit as well.
Planting sugarcane is the most labor intensive time of the year for Broussard. Unfortunately, labor is getting harder to find, and there's more red tape than ever.
TED BROUSSARD started out planting soybeans on fallow sugarcane ground to improve soil tilth. But lately, it’s started to make money.
Older can stubble
To prepare ground for soybeans after harvest, Broussard will take out the older cane stubble, knock the row down and laser level if he has to. Soybean ground is prepared sometime in October, November or December, weather permitting.
Any ground that requires laser leveling will require that cane is burned off. “I do chop it under and let the shucks rot if I don’t have to laser level it. Most of the cane is burned. There’s nothing close to the efficiency of burning.”
Historically high soybean prices have allowed Broussard to purchase a new combine and planter for his soybean operation. “The money I make up for soybeans I put it back into soybeans and equipment to become more efficient at it.”
Another benefit that Broussard has found for soybeans, which are all Roundup Ready varieties, is that bermudagrass infestations in sugarcane are typically less after ground is planted to soybeans.
Planting of sugarcane is the most labor-intensive time of the year for Broussard, and it’s all done by hand. For this operation, Broussard’s labor force increases from 13 hands to 35 hands. At harvest, the labor force can grow to as many as 20.
One complication is the increasing paperwork for his sugarcane labor. Broussard has taken some extraordinary steps to stay ahead of potential labor issues.
“I invested in some new sugarcane planting machines about five years ago when I bought a farm. Last year, we totally rebuilt them with computers to control the flow. They work pretty good right now. That machine plants one row at a time. I’m having a machine built that plans three rows at a time.
“I hope to take delivery, put it in the shed, close the doors and never have to use it. The machines are just for when we can’t get the labor. With all the regulations and paperwork, if you don't cross every ‘t’ and dot every ‘i,’ you could get delayed two weeks in getting labor. Two weeks is a lifetime during cane planting season.”
Within a day of planting, Broussard will apply a herbicide to sugarcane. “For grass control, we will come back with Prowl or Sencor. If we think we still have a problem we’ll come back with Command. We’ll come back sometime in late October or early- to mid-November with the second application of a herbicide.”
A warm winter in south Louisiana meant sugarcane never quit growing this season, Broussard noted. “There are pros and cons to a warm winter. You get an earlier start but something will always bring you back to reality. Not having the winter did bring on rust problems in the cane. And by the second week in June, I was already making a second application for borers in some areas.”