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Sugar producers hear good crop report

Al Orgeron

2016/(7/26) ST. MARTINVILLE, La. – Farmers attending the 54th Annual Sugarcane Field Day for St. Martin, Lafayette and St. Landry parishes on July 22 heard encouraging news with a good crop report and improved prices.

Jim Simon, of the American Sugar Cane League, said prices are good at 25-27 cents a pound. "There is a tightness in the world market,” he said.

A trade agreement to prevent Mexico from dumping sugar in the U.S. needs fine tuning. "It’s not working as we originally intended,” Simon said.

Cuba is not viewed as a viable competitive threat for sugarcane now. "It’s not something we are terribly concerned with,” he said. Trade normalization is years away, and the Cuban sugar industry needs rebuilding.

LSU AgCenter sugarcane specialist Kenneth Gravois said this year’s crop looks good, probably because of a mild winter. Louisiana cane acreage increased this year 30,000 acres over 2015. The U.S. Department of Agriculture concluded the state has 440,000 acres in cane this year.

Several farmers have their first cane crop this year, with four in Pointe Coupee Parish, two in the Bunkie area and one in Concordia Parish, Gravois said.

Farmers also heard technical information about growing their crop.

The West Indian cane fly is a major pest of sugarcane this year, but it can be controlled, according to AgCenter entomologist Blake Wilson.

Insecticides Karate, Intruder and Strafer are all effective. The threshold for spraying is 30 nymphs per leaf, Blake said.

The honeydew excreted by the insect causes a sooty mold that interferes with photosynthesis, and yield loss can be as high as 30 percent, he said. Yield losses are influenced by sugarcane variety, stubble year and duration of infestation.

Another insect, the Mexican rice borer, is moving eastward. "It was found in Lafayette Parish a couple of weeks ago, Blake said.”

AgCenter soybean specialist Ron Levy said soybeans offer good weed control for cane farmers.

Xtend soybeans have been approved for sale in the European Union. The technology produces soybeans resistant to herbicides glyphosate and dicamba, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not approved the use of dicamba for Xtend, Levy said.

AgCenter regional pest management specialist Al Orgeron said the herbicide Armezon works well on bermudagrass. A crop oil should be used to get effective suppression.

A nightshade plant is showing up in more cane fields, and federal agriculture officials are working to get a complete identification. Orgeron said work is being done to get triclopyr herbicides labeled for the invasive pest suspected of being Chinese in origin.

Orgeron said his evaluation of newly developed herbicides show little promise for controlling itchgrass.

AgCenter plant pathologist Jeff Hoy said mosaic disease is showing up again. A survey showed that it hasn’t been found in the Bayou Teche region, but it is a problem for some growers in the Bayou Lafourche area.

The disease is spread by aphids. The best insurance against the disease is to obtain healthy seed cane, Hoy said.

U.S. Department of Agriculture agronomist Ed Dufrene said the new variety HoCP 09-804 is susceptible to mosaic, rust and smut. But the variety has good stubble potential and good sugar production, and it has good cold tolerance.

USDA agronomist Paul White said billet-planted cane has less cold tolerance than whole-stalk-planted cane. Fewer varieties are recommended for billet plantinG.

by Bruce Schultz

LSU AgCenter

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