Farmers were in good spirits for the Fiftieth Annual Sugarcane Field Day in St. Martin Parish on July 20.

The crop looks lush and green with rains that have moistened the ground well for the upcoming planting season. In fact, so much rain fell that the field day was limited to an indoor event.

“We have a great crop out there,” said Al Guidry, LSU AgCenter county agent. “It’s one of the best crops I’ve ever seen.”

Mike Salassi, LSU AgCenter economist, said sugar prices have dropped recently because of increased worldwide production. The sugar beet crop last year was the largest on record, and the U.S. cane crop is expected to equal the high level of 2003.

But with high grain prices, Salassi said, more sugar beet acreage may go to grain and that would raise sugar prices again. “I would think the average price will be in the 30-cent range.”

Jim Simon, general manager of the American Sugar Cane League said U.S. House efforts to dismantle the sugar program were successfully fought during the deliberations on the next farm bill.

Ed Dufrene, sugarcane breeder with the USDA, said farmers are being asked not to replant the new variety Ho 05-961, released in May, because of its high susceptibility to rust. Seven of the 10 varieties released since the release of the variety LCP 85-384 have shown rust susceptibility.

Mike Grisham, director of the USDA Sugarcane Research Unit in Houma, said Jeff Hoy of the LSU AgCenter was successful at getting federal approval for the fungicide Headline to fight rust diseases.

Grisham said rust hits the best growing cane first.

The newest rust disease, orange rust, came from Florida. The disease seems to be affected by cold temperatures and can be controlled with fungicides.

Dale Pollet, LSU AgCenter entomologist, is concerned that farmers are only using one insecticide against borers. The upcoming planting season will attract more borers to cane fields.

Mike Pontif, LSU AgCenter sugarcane breeder, gave an overview of the sugarcane varieties. HoCP 96-540 was grown on 42 percent of the state’s 407,641 acres of cane last year and was the dominant variety.