Call it a sign of the times and tight budgets…
The LSU AgCenter plans to lease land on two of its research stations during 2017. The Northeast Research Station near St. Joseph is looking at leasing approximately 80 acres. The Dean Lee Research and Extension Center near Alexandria expects to lease about 80 acres in addition to 107 acres already leased.
The Northeast station, which focuses on row crop production, comprises 620 acres. Researchers at the Dean Lee station conduct row crop and cattle research across 3,200 acres.
Donnie Miller, research coordinator at the Northeast Research Station, said the property they plan to lease is either adjacent to or in close proximity to the station.
“We could potentially lease certain parcels to local producers in hopes of possibly allowing our faculty to continue to conduct large-scale research or extension demonstration projects on those areas,” Miller said. The fields currently leased include one tract on the unprotected side of the Mississippi River levee, which was used for hay and beef cattle research, as well as one adjacent field on the protected side of the levee used for crop protection trials.
Only one full-time research scientist is currently domiciled at the Northeast station. Research there is supported by other scientists in the northeast region who split a portion of their time among the three research stations in the region. Miller said reduced support staff make it difficult to adequately maintain the station’s current acreage.
The issue is similar at Dean Lee, the AgCenter’s largest research station. Boyd Padgett, director of the AgCenter central region, said the station has more land than it needs for current research efforts. Reductions in research projects have caused these particular fields to remain unused for the past couple of years.
“We have plenty of land on the east side of Highway 71 to accommodate AgCenter scientists who want to use it for research,” Padgett said.
Equipment and labor on the station to maintain the land are also issues. Most the equipment is intended for small-scale research and is not designed for large-scale production. Padgett said it is an inefficient and costly use of their equipment and labor resources to manage beyond the research mission of AgCenter stations.
The land they intend to lease is currently not in production and is on the west side of U.S. Highway 71. The land presently leased is also adjacent to the new area being considered.
The land leases at both stations will go before the LSU Board of Supervisors for approval.