What is in this article?:
- Sugarcane/soybeans a good rotation partner for Ted Broussard
- Older can stubble
- Western Indian cane fly
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.
Western Indian cane fly
Broussard’s biggest insect pest this season turned out to be West Indian cane fly. There were sporadic infestations across cane country, but the heaviest populations were in southern St. Mary Parish, where Broussard farms.
Broussard’s consultant, Blaine Viator, says it’s too early to predict yield reductions from the fly. “This is not necessarily a new pest, but it is the first time that we’ve ever had to control it economically.”
Louisiana applied for and was granted a Section 18 crisis exemption for the application of the imidacloprid to control the cane fly. That exemption was to have expired August 22, but according to Viator, populations of the pest were still continuing to build in mid-August.
Broussard plants 9 sugarcane varieties on land that varies in texture from sandy to heavy clay, and he is constantly evaluating a number of new cane varieties every year.
Broussard harvests cane with two John Deere cane harvesters, which he puts through the rigors. “Most farmers harvest around 400 tons a day with a harvester. We run 600 tons to 700 tons a day with a machine. I’ll keep the machine three years and then trade it in. After three years they still have a high resale value. A lot of the combines have electronics on them, and the worst thing for electronics is to sit idle for nine months out of the year. So we roll them over real quick.”
Half of Broussard harvested cane goes to the mill in a truck with a side dump trailer. The other half is hauled in boxes. We fill the boxes with a high dump wagon, and we use an excavator with a large grab to top them off. We haul our cane 60 miles so we need to have our tonnage right. We make a nice load.”
Broussard said the biggest threat to the U.S. cane industry is the government’s role in labor issues. “With all of the extra people that we have to bring in, it can be a nightmare. In the past, I’ve spent much as $5,000 a year to do the paperwork and applications for visas. I understand the need for regulation, but this year I’m going to spend upwards of $25,000 on paperwork.”
There are times when Broussard and other producers simply have to do without adequate labor. “We plan months ahead, but sometimes, it’s just impossible to find enough people. We find ourselves working 18 hours a day.”