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La. Farm Bureau/Radio Network‏

February 13, 2014

Producers Can Fight Bugs And Diseases Effectively

Invasive species and residue management highlighted a recent LSU AgCenter agriculture producer meeting.

Goss's wilt and redbanded stinkbugs have become problems for Louisiana corn and soybean growers, said Rogers Leonard, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor and program leader for plants and soils. Leonard said growers should be on the lookout for something new or something they haven't seen before. "If you see something, contact the AgCenter," he said.

Goss's wilt is a fungal infection in corn that appeared for the first time in northeast Louisiana in 2013. It was discovered in Nebraska in 1969 and has moved through corn-producing areas of the United States. Infected corn displays symptoms of leaf blight and "has the potential to cause major losses to susceptible hybrids," said AgCenter plant pathologist Trey Price. While Goss's wilt may be a one-time occurrence in Louisiana, Price advised growers to plant resistant hybrids. "It's our best management option," he said.

Producers have several options for managing crop residues following harvest, said LSU AgCenter agronomist Josh Lofton. Lofton said the plusses for maintaining a residue cover include increased organic matter in the soil, holding rainfall to prevent runoff, providing nutrients and reducing both weed pressure and soil erosion. Minuses include immobilizing nitrogen, creating overwintering habitat for problem fungi and insects, interfering with planting and keeping soils cool as planting time approaches.

One option for managing plant residue is burning, which some producers are considering. This practice, however, results in lost moisture, possible erosion, and lower organic carbon in the soil, Lofton said.

The AgCenter has developed a burn management program, primarily for sugarcane producers in south and central Louisiana, said AgCenter sugarcane specialist Kenneth Gravois. In talking about the certified burning plan, Gravois said "we'd rather regulate ourselves than have a government agency regulate us. "We have to regard agricultural burning as a privilege, even though we have the right," Gravois said. "Not everybody understands why we light the match."

LSU AgCenter economist Kurt Guidry talked about managing risk in crop marketing. "Marketing is a form of risk management," Guidry said. With commodity prices at historical levels over the past three years, the urgency to have a marketing plan likely wasn't there, he said. But today, commodity prices are significantly lower, creating tighter margins and bringing more urgency to having a marketing strategy. Previous research showed that over a 15-year period, producers who followed a marketing plan were able to generate, on average, a 5-cent to 10-cent advantage over average market prices, Guidry said.

LSU AgCenter entomologist Sebe Brown said, "Making an application for something that's not there can lead to insect resistance." In reviewing several insecticide options, Brown said, "We've had these chemistries for a long time, so it's no surprise we're seeing resistance. We have plenty of insects in Louisiana that are resistant to a whole lot of insecticides."

Divisions in China Impacting Ag Imports

A government official told the U.S. Grains Council that China's decision to hold up imports of certain U.S. corn shipments is a result of the country's divisions in developing a modern agricultural and food policy. According to Scott Sindelar - Minister Counselor for Agricultural Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing - China's government has decided to use new technology and look to global markets - but this is an intense and increasingly public debate in the country when genetic modification and trade intersect. Since November - after a shipment tested positive for a genetically modified strain of corn China hasn't approved - the country has rejected some 600-thousand tons of corn. They have also rejected about two-thousand tons of U.S. dried distillers' grains. Still - other shipments have been allowed into the country. Sindelar said China is at a crossroads and develops some contradictory policies as a result. He said China has cited lack of consumer protection and lack of consensus on the science behind genetic modification as reasons for the slow approval process for new GMO varieties. But Sindelar said there's a political struggle underway at the same time. He said no action is easier and less risky for Chinese officials. In the short-term - Sindelar said there's no easy solution to the problem of rejected shipment and slow approval process. But in the long-term - he sees a better roadmap for U.S. exports. He believes Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's project to help the Chinese with their biotech approval process will likely prove beneficial.

Farm Bureau Addresses Data and Technology Privacy Concerns of Farmers

The American Farm Bureau Federation told Congress Tuesday that one of the most important issues related to big data goes directly to property rights and who owns and controls farm-level data that may be collected. According to Farm Bureau - the risks to privacy that farmers face are of great concern. Missouri Farm Bureau member Brian Marshall testified before the House Small Business Committee on behalf of AFBF. He told the committee that farmers are right to be concerned about data privacy - in part because the information collected is valuable to companies. Also of concern - Marshall said - are the risks farmers could face related to the release of information about pesticide use or biotech crops - which are accepted farming practices dubbed politically unpopular. In addition - Marshall said farmers should have a say in and be compensated when their data is sold.

Farm Bureau also has a data privacy concern related to the use of unmanned aircraft systems - or drones - for commercial purposes in agriculture and forestry. On that issue - Marshall said operators of drones should be required to gain the consent of the landowner or farmer if surveying or gathering data about the landowner's property below navigable airspace. Farm Bureau opposes federal agencies using drones for regulatory enforcement, litigation and as a sole source for natural resource inventories without the consent of the landowner below navigable airspace.

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