The 2007 Louisiana feedgrain crops are off to a superb start. Acreage across the state has shifted in several commodities, including cotton, corn and soybeans. Corn and sorghum are up, cotton is down and soybeans will be down slightly as well.

How far will soybeans be down? The double-cropped wheat-beans will tell the tale, but for “first-crop” bean ground we are down at least 10 to 15 percent from 2006.

The problems thus far in sorghum are primarily basic agronomic and environmental issues. The portion of the crop that was planted before the cold snap around Easter on light sands had difficulty establishing adequate stands because of cooler soil temperatures — especially at night. This has caused some gaps in the drill row, which is not desirable in sorghum production.

Poor weed control because of excess rain in some portions of the state has also caused some fields to be replanted. Once you get behind on weed control in sorghum, your options are limited.

Another problem noticed statewide is confusion about plant populations. Recommendations on grain sorghum population are mixed across the Mid-South, but 70,000 plants to the acre is about the maximum final plant population desired. There are fields across the state that have final plant populations of over 100,000 plants to the acre.

Next year, we will conduct some plant population research work on grain sorghum to see if we can get a better handle on where yields begin to decline from excess plant populations. This excessive plant population has caused some lodging in fields that have received excess rainfall and wind.

We also had numerous glyphosate drift problems on grain sorghum.

Our corn crop looks fantastic. There have been some minor issues with corn as well, including plant population, seeding depth mishaps and environmental stresses.

Our earliest planted corn is our shortest corn in general. About 15 percent of the state is now tasseling. The shortness of the corn can be attributed to shorter internodal lengths due to the cold weather we experienced in the early vegetative stages.

Our early corn stalled with the cooler temps, but after a few days of sunshine and efficient nitrogen uptake, most “cosmetic” problems have disappeared. A few fields sustained some slight cold damage, but the crop has recovered nicely from these problems. We have had little to no insect problems statewide.

Many producers are searching for answers to question about applying fungicides to corn. With one year of data behind us, it is difficult to say if an application would be beneficial or not, which is why we are not recommending the practice for the 2007 season. However, we are not discouraging growers from trying some fungicides on corn on a limited basis.

I have reviewed the company data as well as the Arkansas and Mississippi data and a couple of things are clear. Earlier applications appear to be more beneficial. Most applications are being suggested at the point where you see tassels beginning to appear in a field.

Applications to fields that have corn following corn may be more beneficial than to fields that have had adequate rotations with other crops. Benefits of a fungicide application may also be hybrid specific.

The bottom line is that there is potentially something going on — but we need a lot more research to figure it out regarding products, timings and hybrid sensitivity.

On May 18 we applied fungicides to many corn fields across the state and are working with producers statewide to monitor the progress of these applications. I am asking producers to document where fungicides have been put out and to leave an untreated portion of the field to compare against.

At the end of the season, I plan to collect as many data points as possible. If you do not leave a portion of the field untreated, there is no way to know if the fungicide had any effect.

Spraying one field and not spraying another is not a good practice either. You have to be as consistent as possible for a fair analysis. Jumping fields, highways, and turnrows is not a good comparison because you get into different dates of plantings, irrigation and rainfall differences, soil type changes, and different IPM strategies.

Split a field that is considered relatively uniform in half with a treated side and an untreated side. This will give you the fairest non-replicated interpretation of what effect the fungicide had.

Besides the cool Easter snap we have had good weather for corn. The corn is growing very fast. Rainfall has been adequate for the most part and we have saved on irrigation costs because of that.

Some corn fields in Morehouse, Concordia and Catahoula parishes have experienced microbursts of inclement weather and bizarre weather has caused lodging and snapping of the stems. Lodging is never good, but the crop generally will stand back up. If the stalk is snapped, there in no hope for the plant.

Our soybean acreage is going to be down slightly. How much is yet to be determined. We are off to a very quiet start with beans. We have had reports of crickets, slugs, snails and bean leaf beetles feeding on portions of the crop, but treatments have been isolated. The no-till fields are definitely more susceptible to the slug and snail damage.

We have also experienced some limited crusting of fields, which caused some replants.

Asian soybean rust has been confirmed in Louisiana for the 2007 season on kudzu. Please continue scouting kudzu and volunteer beans and make us aware of any suspicious samples. The sooner we find it, the more time we will all have to get the fields sprayed.