An LSU AgCenter economist says he is optimistic Louisiana will see an increase in corn acreage this year — particularly in light of the good performance of last year's crop.

Kurt Guidry, an associate specialist in the LSU AgCenter's Department of Agricultural Economics, said last year yielded the best crop corn producers have seen in a while.

But while Guidry offered that optimistic outlook for corn, one Louisiana producer said he's not sure about anything as long as the new federal farm bill is still tied up on Congress.

Guidry was one of several LSU AgCenter researchers who spoke at the North Louisiana Corn Forum held in Rayville, La. Guidry expects an increase in corn acreage this year because the 2001 record-breaking crop that averaged 148 bushels per acre is “still fresh on people's minds.” Along with this comes the expectation of a price increase, he said.

“The success of last year's crop and the lack of attractive alternatives are two reasons why I believe we'll see an increase (in corn acreage) this year,” Guidry said. “I have a less-optimistic outlook for cotton and soybeans.”

In addition to more corn acreage, Guidry said he believes there could be 10-cent to 15-cent price improvement over the past year — and that if the demand is high enough, there “might even be a 20- to 25-cent improvement.”

On the other hand, Jason Stutts, a producer from Bonita, La., said he's saving his optimism until after the farm bill gets out of Congress.

“I have no idea what I'm going to do,” Stutts said. “Right now, I'm just waiting to see what Congress is going to do with the farm bill.”

Although he's not sure exactly what he's going to do at this time, Stutts said he is sure of one thing. “My corn acreage will increase,” he said. “With cotton prices the way they are, we're not going to plant cotton. Of course, corn prices aren't that great either. It all depends on the farm bill.”

Stutts and his brother have been farming since 1993.

In addition to an economic outlook on the 2002 corn crop, other issues discussed during the North Louisiana Corn Forum included corn varieties and irrigation by Rick Mascagni of the LSU AgCenter.

“The history of a field is the best way to determine which variety of corn to plant and how much irrigation is needed,” Mascagni said. “Producers can also use parish soil surveys as a reference tool.”

In addition to planting the proper corn variety and using the correct amount of irrigation, producers need to use the correct type and amount of fertilizer. J Cheston Stevens, an associate specialist with the LSU AgCenter in Franklin Parish, said the first step in developing a fertilizer program is to get a set of soil samples tested.

“You can bring these soil samples to your nearest LSU AgCenter parish office, and they will be sent to our Baton Rouge lab for testing,” Stevens said. “Once the soil has been tested, you will get a report from which you can determine what program to use.”

The cost for the soil testing is $4 and can be paid by check or money order, he said.

Weed control is another matter producers must attend to before planting. Bill Williams, a researcher at the LSU AgCenter's Northeast Research Station in St. Joseph, said producers shouldn't plant any earlier than they have to and that they should use a good herbicide.

“You can also plant Roundup Ready corn,” he said. “This will help minimize the amount of weeds in your crop.”

During the forum, Roger Leonard, a researcher at the AgCenter's Macon Ridge location of its Northeast Research Station in Winnsboro, also reminded producers to get together a plan of action for their attack against insects.

“Seedbed management is important early in the season,” Leonard said. “As vegetation increases in the beds, so does the probability of insect injury. Start applying insecticides early to reduce insect injury to your crop.”


A. Denise Coolman writes for the LSU AgCenter.