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AgCenter experts meet with farmers

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ALEXANDRIA, La., (KNOE 8 News) – Farmers getting ready to plant their cotton and small grain crops this year got advice from a full slate of LSU AgCenter experts late last week at the Dean Lee Research Station.

A proper burndown of unwanted vegetation before planting can help a young crop get a head start against weeds and insects, several scientists told the attendees.

"Starting out clean can help you with some of these pest issues," said Sebe Brown, LSU AgCenter entomologist.

Brown said a new product called Transform has been approved for cotton against aphids. He said the product Temik is no longer available, and its replacement, Meymik, won't be available in Louisiana until 2014.

Brown said the bird repellent Avipel can be effective to prevent birds from eating corn seed, but it can result in a reduced stand.

Daniel Stephenson, LSU AgCenter weed scientist, said weeds not only use nutrients needed by crops, they also host several insect pests. "Break that green bridge," he said.

He said the weed henbit can harbor spider mites, and atrazine-based herbicides and Gramoxone are good chemicals against that weed.

Stephenson said glyphosate-resistant johnsongrass can be treated with the chemical Capreno. A new chemical, Zidua, is effective on numerous grass and broadleaf weeds.

Stephenson said farmers should not worry about the effects of a pre-emerge herbicide on soybeans. The plants may appear to be injured by the chemical, he said, but plants can compensate for the injury with no yield loss if soybean plants don't experience any other type of stress during the growing season.

Jeff Davis, LSU AgCenter entomologist, said spraying just the edges of a soybean field for stinkbugs can provide cost-effective control.

Davis said the red-banded stinkbug is the main soybean pest, but the kudzu bug and the brown marmorated stinkbug would be formidable pests if they gained a foothold in Louisiana.

Boyd Padgett, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist, said farmers should chose soybean varieties that were evaluated in the area and under the conditions that represent where they farm. One reason for this recommendation is the fungus causing Cercospora leaf blight is genetically diverse across the state, making it difficult to control. Therefore, disease reactions to specific varieties can vary from location to location.

Ron Levy, LSU AgCenter soybean and corn specialist, told farmers they should have their soil tested every three to four years and look for a trend over time to see if nutrient levels are being depleted. With higher yields, the amounts of nutrients applied may need to be increased.

He said the AgCenter conducts variety trials and core block demonstrations to test corn, sorghum and soybean varieties across the state, and results of that testing are available on the AgCenter website.

Levy said planting during optimum planting dates has resulted in higher yields, and for some crops such as corn or grain sorghum, late planting can result in low yields and increased insect and disease damage. Instead of planting corn or sorghum late, producers may be better off planting soybeans instead.

Kurt Guidry, LSU AgCenter economist, said soybeans prices should stay in the range of $11-$13 a bushel this year, but the commodity has potential for higher prices.

Guidry said corn should be in the range of $4.75-$6.75 a bushel, but a large crop increase could push prices down.

He said he expects cotton to sell at 65-85 cents a pound, but he said that could increase because of an expected acreage decrease.

Guidry said the Midwest remains dry, and U.S. Department of Agriculture corn and soybean projections are based on the expectation that farmers will have normal rainfall. "I think we are a long way from that happening."

J Stevens, AgCenter soil fertility specialist, said chicken litter can be a good fertilizer source if farmers take the proper precautions. "Get it tested so you know the fertility."

He said nitrogen fertilizer prices in Louisiana should benefit from the startup of two new plants in the state.

The price of potash should be more affordable this year, he said. "Worldwide there is a glut of potash on the market."

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