MONROE, La. — Louisiana cotton producers, gathered for the Jan. 20 Louisiana Cotton Forum, heard a variety of experts tell them how research and technology can help them bring in a bumper crop this year just as they did in 2003.

Precision agriculture was one form of technology touted during the forum. This technology also is known as prescription application and/or precision farming, said Roger Leonard, an LSU AgCenter researcher at the AgCenter’s Macon Ridge Research Station located near Winnsboro, La.

"The value of precision agriculture is that it reduces the amount of pesticides, fertilizers, harvest aids and growth regulators used," Leonard said. "The challenges are that it is a complicated approach, there is a lack of ‘turn-key’ systems and this method of farming rarely makes a person rich the first year it is used."

Ralph Bagwell, an LSU AgCenter researcher also stationed at the Macon Ridge Research Station, said precision agriculture involves using Global Positioning Systems, as well as Geographic Information Systems, to determine application rates for chemicals, as well as detect insect population densities in a field.

Other topics discussed during the forum included an update on the state’s boll weevil eradication program. John Andries of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry said the program is "working well" and that the boll weevil population in Louisiana is dwindling.

"But it’s going to take a lot of work to ensure the boll weevil stays out of Louisiana," Andries said.

One way to do this is to make sure all equipment coming into the state is cleaned before it crosses the state’s borders, he said.

In another part of the program, producers heard that Louisiana is leading the pack with its Master Farmer Program, an environmental stewardship program in which farmers voluntarily participate and learn about ways they can increase profitability while reducing the effects on the environment.

Carrie Castille of the LSU AgCenter said Louisiana leads the nation in environmental stewardship with its implementation of the Master Farmer Program. In an effort to promote environmental stewardship, organizers of the Louisiana program are joining with universities in Mississippi and Arkansas to develop a multi-state Master Farmer Program, she said.

To learn more about the LSU AgCenter’s Master Farmer, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/masterfarmer, or call Castille at 225-578-2906.

A. Denise Coolman writes for the LSU AgCenter (318–366–1477 or dcoolman@agcenter.lsu.edu).