Farmers learned ways to improve the quality and yield potential of cotton from LSU AgCenter experts at the Northeast Louisiana Crop Forum in Rayville, La.

Each year, LSU AgCenter scientists evaluate cotton varieties and publish guidelines for cotton production practices associated with planting time and variety selection, said Donald Boquet, agronomist. Six trials were conducted last year at LSU AgCenter research stations, and on-farm trials were conducted in 11 parishes.

No single best variety is chosen in the trials, Boquet said, but planting several of the best varieties “increases the probability of planting the best variety.”

Variety selection identifies cotton that has the potential to be superior in Louisiana as well as cotton that doesn’t perform well, he said. “High fiber quality ensures textile mills will buy and find uses for cotton.”

Boquet predicts an increase in cotton acreage in 2010 to 260,000, which would be up from 230,000 in 2009, which was the lowest since the Civil War, Boquet said.

“Cotton has to stay above 70 cents to get interest from farmers,” Boquet said.

Ronald Levy, LSU AgCenter specialist, believes there will be a slight increase in corn acreage over the 620,000 acres harvested in 2009. He said corn needs to be planted by mid-April.

For soybeans, Levy said seedbed preparation, row spacing, irrigation and proper timing are important.

“One of the biggest limiting factors in yield is not knowing the soil composition,” Levy said. “Farmers need to get their soil tested.”

Roger Leonard, LSU AgCenter entomologist, cautioned growers about the red-banded stink bug in soybeans, which is difficult to control and takes higher rates and more frequent applications of insecticide. He suggested scouting for stink bugs on a regular basis.

Cercospora blight is a destructive and consistent disease in soybeans, said Boyd Padgett, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist. Other soybean diseases to watch for are downy mildew, frog eye and rust. “Don’t hesitate to contact your county agent if you have a problem identifying diseases,” Padgett said.