More than 100 people attending the June 28 LSU AgCenter Northeast Research Station field day were told the importance of identifying pests, diseases and weeds in their crops at the annual event that featured soybean, cotton and corn production.

 Weather was also a hot topic.

Ron Levy, LSU AgCenter soybean specialist, anticipates a yield reduction. “A lot of pods aborted due to dry conditions.”

Recent rains helped soybean green up. “Hopefully we can continue to get these rains.”

Although yields appear to be down, soybeans have had very little insect pressure. “We’ve seen very little stink bugs to this point,” Levy said.

Cotton acreage, though low, should be up about 10 percent over last year, or around 280,000 acres, said John Kruse, LSU AgCenter cotton and corn specialist.

Flooded areas around Lake Providence and Vidalia remain an unknown factor, but cotton is “quite the varied crop this year and has potential,” Kruse said. “If we can get a few more rains (it) would make a difference.”

As for corn, Kruse said Louisiana is looking at “the state average, or better, yield in irrigated corn.”

When deciding whether a fungicide application will benefit corn production, farmers should consider genetic resistance of the variety, disease incidence and severity and field history, said Boyd Padgett, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist. “While fungicides can be effective and beneficial in some fields, automatic applications are not supported by data generated from LSU AgCenter research.” 

Dennis Burns, LSU AgCenter agent in Tensas Parish, simulated the use of Normalized Difference Vegetative Index (NDVI) readings for real-time, on-the-go applications of plant growth regulator, defoliants and fertilizer. NDVI measures plant growth and health using an integrated optical sensing and application system that measures crop status and variably applies the crop's nitrogen requirements.

The sensors give the field computers readings that are converted to gallons per acre and sent to the sprayer control to determine application amounts, Burns said.

Bill Williams, LSU AgCenter weed scientist, said two issues in his fields are glyphosate resistance and overwhelming weed populations.

The lack of proper weed management in the fall has played a part in higher densities and numbers of weeds, Williams said. Farmers are growing more shorter-season crops, and the fields are left to Mother Nature, which presents two or three months when weeds grow and set seed following harvest.

Ryegrass, henbit and mare’s-tail are the most serious weed problems this year, he said.

Daniel Stephenson, LSU AgCenter weed scientist, said he has confirmed glyphosate-resistant ryegrass in Louisiana. “Please use mitigation strategies to fight it,” he told the farmers.

“I would almost bet there are resistant weeds in that water,” Stephenson said of the Mississippi River water that was diverted into the Morganza Floodway during high water during the spring.

Master Farmer program coordinator Donna Morgan encouraged farmers to attend Phase I of the Master Farmer program that will be offered at five LSU AgCenter distance learning sites beginning July 11.

The Louisiana Master Farmer Program helps agricultural producers voluntarily address environmental concerns related to production agriculture, as well as enhance their production and resource management skills.

Mike Strain, commissioner of Louisiana agriculture, thanked the LSU AgCenter for its work in variety trials and mentioned his concern over the state budget cuts.

“Why does this sleeping giant not roar?” he asked. “The AgCenter’s got to be protected. It is the research and development arm of this industry.”

“We are not closing this station,” said Bill Richardson, LSU AgCenter Chancellor, “but it doesn’t mean our budget situation is good. The logo is still on the front porch and we are going to be open for business.”

“I farmed for 27 years and all of my knowledge came from this station,” said state Rep. Andy Anders, of Vidalia.

LSU AgCenter specialists were the first to be called upon during the BP oil spill and during the recent floods, said John Russin, recently-named AgCenter vice chancellor for research.

Paul Coreil, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor for Extension, announced a new broadband Internet education and awareness initiative that will help farmers and others in northeast Louisiana market and expand their business.