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Predicting sugarcane season ‘iffy’

This spring has the LSU AgCenter sugarcane specialist scratching his head, but he is sure the cold, wet winter has slowed the beginning stages of this year’s crop.

“Without a doubt, this is one of the more puzzling starts of a season,” Kenneth Gravois said at the LSU AgCenter wheat and sugarcane field day on April 28.

“It seems like if you go farther north, the crop is better.”

It’s possible that better-drained soils are found to the north and those fields were able to withstand the heavy winter rainfall.

“Where the runoff is slow, the stand is the weakest,” Gravois said.

The LSU AgCenter Iberia Research Station received 47 inches of rain between September and the end of December, according to Sonny Viator, the station’s director.

Gravois said this year’s sugarcane crop overall had a disappointing start, but noticeable improvements have been observed in late April/early May. Many are optimistic that the crop can rebound, but it’s too early to tell how this year’s crop will fare.

“Estimating a crop in the spring is like betting on a blind date,” said Gravois. “Plant-cane stands are good for the most part, and many stubble fields are in good shape. The downside is the weak stands of HoCP 96-540 stubble.”

Gravois said much of the variety’s first-year stubble appears to have a weak start.

Warming nighttime temperatures will give this sugarcane crop a boost.

Boyd Padgett, LSU AgCenter plant pathologist, said stripe rust has been more prevalent in wheat this year because it requires cool, wet weather.

“It was probably our Number One disease for about four years beginning in 2000, and then it just went away,” Padgett said of the stripe rust.

He said new fungicides are now available for a variety of diseases that afflict wheat.

One disease, smut, cannot be treated with a fungicide after it develops. Because the disease originates in the seed from infections that occurred the previous year, the LSU AgCenter recommends that farmers not save seed from a previous year’s crop.

Steve Harrison, LSU AgCenter wheat breeder, showed farmers the results of a trial near Broussard that demonstrated disease resistance and susceptibility of numerous wheat varieties.

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