An LSU AgCenter soybean breeder is going back to the wild to find ways of increasing soybean yields.

Blair Buckley said during the June 6 Red River Research Station field day that he is working on a study with the University of Georgia and the University of North Carolina to find genes in wild soybeans that could boost yields in domestic beans.

Plant breeding eventually reaches a yield plateau, Buckley said. “In order to make the next step up, you have to find new genes.”

Crosses of wild soybeans with domestic varieties have been made for evaluation in the project funded by the United Soybean Board, he said. He also is working on breeding soybeans for resistance to Cercospora leaf blight, a project funded by the Louisiana Soybean and Grain Promotion Board.

Experimental soybean lines are being grown at the Red River station and on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge for evaluation, Buckley said. He also is working to determine if some soybean varieties should be classified with earlier maturity ratings.

LSU AgCenter cotton and feed grain specialist John Kruse’s work on corn is showing the importance of zinc for that crop. Studies have shown that as little as 2.5 pounds of zinc per acre can boost yields by 20 bushels. “There are not many things you can do from a fertility standpoint that will get you a 20-bushel increase,” he said.

If soil testing shows a zinc level of less than 2.5 parts per million, then a supplement probably is needed, Kruse advised. High pH soil can bind to zinc, making the nutrient unavailable to a crop.

LSU AgCenter plant pathologist Boyd Padgett has seen more cotton seedling disease this year than in the past six years.

In-furrow fungicide applications for cotton provide residual disease protection. Cotton diseases are more likely to develop in crops that are stressed, especially with soil deficient in potassium and phosphate.

The field day also included presentations for cattle producers.

LSU AgCenter entomologist Stephen Micinski talked about the use of musk thistle weevils to control musk thistle. This year’s outbreak of the thistle is the worst Micinski has ever seen.

The weevil is effective against the weed by feeding on the seed head, he said, but it takes five to 10 years before the insect’s benefit is noticeable.

LSU AgCenter cattle researcher Ryon Walker talked about considerations related to heavier cows that produce calves with higher weight. Larger cows will eat more, and producers must consider if that extra expense is worth the higher weaning weights.

A study on the issue, conducted at the LSU AgCenter Hill Farm Research Station, is almost complete, Walker said.

LSU AgCenter forage researcher Buddy Pitman talked about the benefits of dallisgrass and native legumes, such as herbaceous mimosa.

Alan Shadow of the Natural Resources Conservation Service said Eastern gammagrass, a native plains species, can grow 2 inches a day and enable cattle to gain 2 pounds daily. The plant is drought tolerant because of its extensive root system, and one planting can result in regrowth for several decades.

Sarah Sterling, research associate at the Red River station, talked about the corn variety trials conducted there, and Russell Anderson, also a research associate at the station, outlined his breeding program for Southern sweet peas.

Bentley Fitzpatrick, research associate at the Red River Research Station, gave an overview of his work on cotton seed treatments for thrips. He said the effectiveness for the treatments became less effective 28 days after planting.

H.Y. Hanna, LSU AgCenter researcher at the station, gave an overview of his greenhouse tomato project. Greenhouses are used to grow most tomatoes in Europe and Canada and produce at the rate of 500,000 pounds per acre.

Production in the greenhouse at the Red River station is 400,000 pounds per acre, roughly 40 pounds per plant, Hanna said. The greenhouse tomatoes use recycled water, require no pesticides and are relatively free of disease.

Hanna said several techniques developed at the station have been adopted around the world.