Louisiana: Sugarcane Farmers Meet Virtually to Prepare for 2021

After completing a successful harvest, sugarcane farmers in the Bayou Teche area met online Feb. 9 with LSU AgCenter experts to find out what they should be doing to prepare for next year’s crop.

Kenneth Gravois, LSU AgCenter sugarcane specialist, said clipping, followed by burning the residue could impair growth, especially with the possibility of a freeze in the next few days.

Gravois said some farmers who clipped seed cane fields in 2019 of the variety L01-299 had to replant after clipping.

“It never came back from that,” he said.

Gravois also said many farmers who bought hurricane insurance for their crops benefitted from the program.

“It was well worth the cost.”

Al Orgeron, LSU AgCenter cane pest specialist, said L01-299 shows signs of stress after herbicides are applied.

“It doesn’t like herbicides early in the year,” he said.

He also advised using lower herbicide rates on lighter soils.

Orgeron said several new herbicides could be labeled this year, but regulatory agencies have been considering restrictions on the use of the herbicide metribuzin, the main ingredient of products such as Tricor. He said water samples collected by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry from wells and bayous have not found any of the product exceeding regulatory levels.

Blake Wilson, LSU AgCenter entomologist, said the population of borer insects is not reduced by cold weather.

“I think based on what we’ve seen in the past, we may be dealing with West Indian caneflies.”

Jeff Hoy, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist, said freezing weather in the spring could hamper the development of rust disease, but he said good rust control can be obtained with fungicides.

Jim Simon, general manager of the American Sugar Cane League, said the new secretary of agriculture, Tom Vilsack, worked well with the sugar industry under President Obama. “So we welcome him in that position.”

Simon said there are uncertainties with the Biden administration, including an increased minimum wage. But he said Biden and Vilsack are aware of the issues surrounding the H2A and H2B labor programs.

Video presentations also were made available to farmers on YouTube, and they can be found by searching under the title “Louisiana Sugarcane Winter Meetings.” Those presenters included:

  • Gravois, who reviewed farmers’ challenges of dealing with tropical weather last year. He also talked about acreage increases last year that brought the total to 496,000 acres. The biggest increase was in St. Landry Parish with a 23% increase to a total of 25,584. The average harvest was 36 tons of cane per acre that resulted in 233 pounds of sugar per ton, and 8,352 pounds of sugar per acre.
  • Hannah Penn, entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture who described her research of insecticide treatments for sugarcane borers and Mexican rice borers.
  • Wilson, who said a wet April and May can result in an increase in sugarcane borer numbers, while dry weather seems to increase the numbers of Mexican rice borers. He said Mexican rice borers spread to Avoyelles and Rapides parishes last year.
  • Orgeron, with a talk about controlling paraquat-resistant ryegrass.
  • Hoy talked about possible disease problems in 2021, and he said a mild winter will possibly mean increased severity of multiple diseases, including rust, smut and brown stripe. Rust is more of a problem for plant cane of susceptible varieties growing on good land, Hoy said.
  • Simon, who said farmers persevered through the weather challenges. ‘All in all, it’s still an above average crop,” he said.
  • Doug Spanhorst, USDA weed scientist, talked about research focusing on itchgrass control.
  • Brenda Tubana, LSU AgCenter agronomist, gave an update on her research of nitrogen sensing and variable rate technology.
  • Rich Johnson, USDA agronomist, who talked about soil fertility, including nitrogen fertilizer recommendations.
  • Patrick Ellsworth, USDA plant physiologist, detailed his research of plant root structure and function.
  • Dr. Paul White, USDA agronomist, talked about his research into billet planting seed treatments.

Additional meetings for sugarcane farmers will be held.

Farmers in Rapides, Avoyelles and St. Landry parishes are invited to attend a virtual sugarcane meeting on Feb. 23 at 9 a.m. Contact AgCenter county agent Justin Dufour at jdufour@agcenter.lsu.edu for more information.

LSU AgCenter county agent Mark Carriere is organizing an in-person outdoor meeting for growers in Pointe Coupee, Iberville and West Baton Rouge parishes. Date and time are to be determined. Contact Carriere for additional information at mcarriere@agcenter.lsu.edu.




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