(08/07/2018) BONITA, La. — What began as a simple idea 16 years ago as a way to bring African-American farmers and landowners together to explore ways to increase farm productivity has become an annual event highlighting ongoing research, industry updates and emerging issues in agriculture.

The 2018 Morehouse Parish Farm Tour was held July 27 at the Odis Hill farm in Bonita. The event was sponsored by the Morehouse Parish Black Farmers and Landowners Association, the LSU AgCenter and the Southern University Ag Center, along with numerous industry and business supporters.

Improved communication is the greatest benefit from the field day, said Southern University Ag Center extension agent Odis Hill.

“Having agriculture experts all in one place letting growers know that people are available to help improve productivity of small farmer operations is extremely valuable,” he said.

Hill coordinated and hosted the event on his farm, which drew about 200 adults and youth.

“This program has always been a family-oriented event geared to help small farmers and expose others to farming as a viable component of the economy,” said LSU AgCenter chief operating officer and associate vice president Gina Eubanks.

“This effort has produced a consistently successful field day by both Louisiana land-grant institutions working together to support a shared clientele,” said AgCenter associate vice president Rogers Leonard.

“We can’t fail when a collective energy is focused on the same target,” said Southern University Ag Center chancellor Bobby Phills.

LSU AgCenter weed scientist Daniel Stephenson discussed ways to combat herbicide resistance in amaranth species, including Palmer amaranth and waterhemp.

“We are in a battle right now,” he said, citing residual herbicides and varying modes of action as tools for weed control.

The days of relying on a single herbicide for weed control are over, he said.

Starting clean and maintaining weed-free fields for five weeks after emergence for soybean and seven weeks in cotton can maximize yield, he said.

LSU AgCenter soybean specialist Todd Spivey reviewed seeding rate recommendations for soybeans, saying that many producers are spending more money than necessary to achieve height and canopy closure in soybean fields.

Optimum planting dates, soil texture and row spacing all play a role in determining seeding rates. Research shows that current recommendations of 110,000 to 130,000 seeds per acre, regardless of row spacing, will provide the vegetative infrastructure in the field to maximize yield, he said.

LSU AgCenter agent Richard Letlow discussed sunflower management to attract and sustain migratory birds, especially doves.

While most hunters take part in the early-season hunt in September, some of the best hunting in Louisiana is later in October and November, he said.

After the early season, the remaining crop becomes a winter feed for migrating birds, he said, suggesting that growers leave a few rows randomly throughout the field to be mowed later.

For wheat plots, planting is not recommended until mid-September, he said. He encouraged producers to follow recommended seeding rates for planting in pastures and fields to remain compliant with Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries regulations.

Mowing or plowing before the hunting season to make seeds more attractive to birds is allowed. But adding supplementary seeds to the field or harvesting seeds and later returning them to the field is against recommended practices, Letlow said.

Antwain Downs, Morehouse Black Farmers and Landowners Association treasurer and parish Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor, discussed U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service conservation programs and shared information about the Outreach and Technical Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged programs.

NRCS targets five percent of EQIP funding each year for both Beginning Farmers and Ranchers and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers programs.

“These programs pay you for doing things you should be doing all the time to increase profit,” Downs said.

Working together to support one another through changing technologies, sharing information and updates, and promoting agriculture to youth are some of the greatest benefits of the field day, he said.

“We need to try to keep the youth involved because if we don’t, we won’t have any future farmers,” Downs said.

National Black Growers Council chairman P.J. Haynie said the number of African-American farmers has significantly declined.

Involvement in hands-on agriculture and exposure to precision agriculture and other technologies can encourage more youth to choose agriculture-related careers, Haynie said.

In other presentations:

— Bruce Stripling, FMC Corporation regional service manager, discussed herbicide use in corn.

— John Lee, FMC retail market manager, highlighted new herbicide, insect and disease control technologies.

— Dewayne Goldmon, Monsanto Company director of stakeholder relations, reviewed conservation practices, including land leveling and water management for EQIP qualification.

— John Pierre, Southern University Law Center chancellor, discussed the historical significance and current relevance of African-American farmers in America.