Louisiana’s rice, cotton, corn, soybeans, sugarcane and grain sorghum crops all set yield records in 2012. It was also a good year for animal enterprises with poultry’s value going up 15 percent and the cattle industry’s value increasing by 25 percent over 2011.
“Producers are constantly telling us that we are a major partner in their operations and without our help, they probably would no longer be in business,” said Bill Richardson, LSU AgCenter chancellor.
Richardson said the LSU AgCenter’s expertise is relied upon by one of the most diverse crop offerings in the United States.
“Louisiana farmers grow just about everything from row crops to crawfish. But as in most Southern states, forestry is the leading agriculture industry statewide. The AgCenter plays a major role in supporting all of Louisiana’s agricultural industries and managing our natural resources,” he said.
The chancellor said the AgCenter’s prominence in the state’s agriculture industry is the result of dedication of the scientists and extension agents.
“Our scientists use innovative technology transfer methods to put best management practices in the hands of Louisiana’s agricultural stakeholders,” Richardson said. “We provide top-flight research to help keep Louisiana producers profitable.”
Each year the LSU AgCenter tests commercial cotton, corn, soybean, rice, sugarcane, wheat, oat and grain sorghum varieties. Results are published to help growers make decisions before planting.
The LSU AgCenter’s plant protection programs in entomology, pathology and weed control are developing new ways to combat pests to maintain yields.
“A major reason we have not experienced severe herbicide-resistant weed problems is because our specialists were able to get ahead of this dilemma and educate growers,” Richardson said. “Our scientists have shown growers how to incorporate seed treatments for their crops to prevent insect infestations and to decrease the amount of pesticides used during the season. They have helped farmers obtain federal approval for fungicides to control plant diseases.”
Critical to the future of Louisiana agriculture is exploring the potential of new crops. The AgCenter is a partner in a $17 million U.S. Department of Energy grant aimed at studying the possibility of growing sweet sorghum and “energy” sugarcane to be converted into ethanol and other industrial products.
But even the top-notch research conducted by the LSU AgCenter would be of no value if it didn’t reach a target audience.
“We have an extension office and at least one agent in each of the state’s 64 parishes. These agents provide educational information ranging from backyard gardening to managing a thousand acres in cultivation,” Richardson said. “The AgCenter brings the expertise from the university to the doorstep of every state resident.”
Richardson said extension offices provide services that go beyond farming. “Our programs benefit 4-H youth, improve quality of life, stimulate the local and state economy, create jobs and assure a strong return from the investments made in land-grant universities.” Additionally, the AgCenter provides strong research-based educational programs focused on healthy lifestyles.
“Fighting obesity, especially childhood obesity, is one of our program priorities. Proper diet and exercise can lead to reduced health care costs, a more productive workforce, stronger families and better communities,” Richardson said.
Protecting the environment is an AgCenter educational goal. Richardson said the LSU AgCenter is a partner in the Louisiana Master Farmer, Master Cattle Producer and the Kellogg Master Rice Grower programs. “All of these programs help farmers voluntarily adopt environmentally sound practices without the imposition of governmental regulations. Several other states have modeled similar programs after ours.”
The LSU AgCenter serves not only the state’s agricultural industries but every one of its residents. From farming to forestry, natural resources to nutrition, and education to economics, AgCenter faculty recognize public need and work diligently to address problems with practical solutions.
(This article was published in the winter 2013 issue of Louisiana Agriculture magazine.)