Wheat experts from the LSU AgCenter say growing conditions are good and diseases are minimal for the 2008 crop.

LSU AgCenter experts addressed variety trials, diseases and weed control at the annual wheat and oat field day held recently at the AgCenter’s Macon Ridge Research Station at Winnsboro, La.

After the indoor presentations, the 70 participants viewed the state variety trials, led by Steve Harrison, LSU AgCenter small grains plant breeder.

“We need to pay attention to varieties,” Harrison said. “There are disease problems we don’t normally see because of the varieties we’re growing and the amount.”

The Louisiana wheat crop is the biggest since 1985 and second largest ever, Harrison said.

“We’ve got 400,000 acres of wheat this year,” the plant breeder said. “All in all, our wheat is good to very good.

“We pretty much got our wheat planted on time,” Harrison said of planting season, which he called “very good.”

Heavy rainfall in central and south Louisiana created some waterlogged soils, said Clayton Hollier, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist. But he agreed that the crop looks good. “The wheat is headed nicely, and good yields will be had.”

Hollier said there is an increase in disease problems this year compared with the past several years, but on the whole they are still less than he expected. In some wet areas, the crop is suffering from downy mildew.

“Wheat does not like wet feet,” Hollier said.

It is much better to manage a disease with a preventive measure than to clean up after it, said Boyd Padgett, an LSU AgCenter plant pathologist, who discussed fungicide trials and disease control.

Bill Williams, an LSU AgCenter weed scientist, reminded growers and consultants that good seedbed preparation and early herbicide application are the best protections for weed control.

Hessian fly is prevalent in fields around Interstate 10 west of Baton Rouge and in Winnsboro and Delhi, La., said Roger Leonard, an LSU AgCenter entomologist.

“I doubt we’ll see much yield loss, but it could infest next fall’s crop if they move to adjacent fields,” Leonard said.

He said producers from Louisiana to Georgia use seed treatment to slow down Hessian fly problems.

“If it weren’t for these research stations, I don’t know what we farmers would do,” said Johnnie Etier of Richland Parish. He has attended field days at LSU AgCenter’s Macon Ridge, Hill Farm, Rosepine and Dean Lee research stations over his 76 years of farming 285 acres.

“Personnel bend over backwards,” Etier said. “They help any way they can.”