Aphid causes problems for Louisiana grain sorghum

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LSU AgCenter experts urged farmers who experienced harvest problems caused by the white sugarcane aphid in grain sorghum to report their difficulties to state agriculture officials to help obtain approval for a pesticide to control the insect.

Josh Lofton, LSU AgCenter agronomist, said grain sorghum yields were good last year, but the residue left by the aphids in many fields created a gummy mess in combines.

He said an application for a Section 18 permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is being made for Transform pesticide by the LSU AgCenter and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.

Kurt Guidry, LSU AgCenter economist, urged farmers to provide details about problems caused by the aphid last year to convince the EPA that it should approve the use of Transform in Louisiana grain sorghum.

Guidry said grain sorghum prices are likely to be close to corn prices in 2014. He said corn demand is down because less ethanol is being produced. But, he said, cheaper fertilizer prices will allow many farmers to continue growing corn, which probably will be priced from $4 to $5.50 a bushel.

He said soybean stocks are tight with continued demand, but that could be offset by a large South American soybean crop. He said soybean prices should remain in the range of $11 to $12.50 per bushel for the next few months.

“We hope we’ll have demand for corn, but we pretty much know we’ll have demand for soybeans,” he said.

He said wheat prices have not increased but should reach $6 to $7 a bushel.

Lofton said this year’s Louisiana’s wheat crop was not damaged by the mid-January cold snap, but last year’s crop had significant damage from freezing spring temperatures. “We had some with entire fields of aborted seed heads,” he said.

Trey Price, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist, said more fungicide-resistant diseases will be found in soybean and corn crops. He said 85 percent of frogeye leafspot disease samples showed resistance to strobilurin fungicides in 21 of 27 parishes. “I saw more frogeye last year than I did Cercospora,” he said.

Ron Levy, LSU AgCenter soybean specialist, said he expects soybean acreage to increase in 2014 because of good prices. Last year’s crop exceeded 1 million acres and yielded an average of 48 bushels, a one bushel increase from 2012, he said.

The average yield would have been higher, but the crop in south Louisiana was hurt by moisture problems, he said.

Levy said more farmers are using Liberty Link soybeans. He said research has shown that the Liberty herbicide is more effective if application is made two hours after sunrise. The difference can be as much as 40 percent to 50 percent control, he said.

Dan Fromme, LSU AgCenter cotton and corn specialist, said the window for corn planting is approaching, with the recommended time frame of Feb. 25 to March 20 in south Louisiana and March 10 to April 1 in north Louisiana.

He said yields were good last year, and weather played a big factor in that outcome. “Temperatures have a big impact on what that corn plant can do,” Fromme said.

He said cooler night temperatures and consistent sunlight result in better yields and complete grain filling, while warm nights and cloudy days reduce yield potential.

Daniel Stephenson, LSU AgCenter weed scientist, said farmers should be controlling weeds in fields that will be planted soon. He advised that glyphosate should include a surfactant to make sure the chemical penetrates the waxy leaves of growing weeds.

He said herbicide-resistant Palmer amaranth weeds have been confirmed in St. Landry Parish. “This is the best time to kill it,” Stephenson said.

J Cheston Stevens, LSU AgCenter soils specialist, advised farmers to have their soils tested. He compared planting a crop in untested soil with starting a trip without a road map.

Stevens said nutrient deficiency leaves clues in a plant’s appearance. For example, he said, nitrogen deficiency will show up in the form of yellowed lower leaves, while a deficiency of sulfur affects the top leaves.

Don Reed, LSU AgCenter wildlife specialist, said wild hogs are becoming more of a problem statewide. He said state law allows night hunting for wild hogs between March and August to avoid conflicting with the regular hunting season.

Reed said trapping is the most effective control method if a large trap can be used to catch an entire group. Catching only one hog at a time teaches other hogs to avoid traps, he said.

Vince Deshotel, LSU AgCenter agent in St. Landry Parish, said sweet potato farming has fallen to fewer than 200 acres in the parish, compared to 40,000 acres a few decades ago. He said the sweet potato associations in St. Landry and Evangeline parishes were dissolved last year because of the decline.

Most of the sweet potato acreage is in northeast Louisiana, he said.

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