Precision technology includes drones at sugarcane field day

By JOHNNY MORGAN

jmorgan@agcenter.lsu.edu

JEANERETTE — Sugarcane farmers attending the Iberia, St. Mary and Vermillion parishes field day got to see how an unmanned aerial vehicle, commonly known as a drone, is being used to help growers be more efficient in crop production.

The three-parish sugarcane field day was held at the LSU AgCenter Iberia Research Station in Jeanerette Thursday.

Despite an early morning downpour, sugarcane farmers were able to see how one of the three models can be used to do aerial remote sensing on their farms.

Randy Price, an AgCenter engineer who has been working with the technology for several years, said he is excited about what can be done. He is working with St. Mary Parish county agent Jimmy Flanagan to bring practical uses to sugarcane farmers.

“You can attach a camera to the bottom of the drone and put it on auto, and it will take a picture every three seconds,” Price said.

Those images can then be uploaded to a computer program that will bring all of the images together, Price said.

Flanagan has a grant to purchase one of the drones to be used by AgCenter agents as they work with growers across the state.

Other topics discussed at the field day include how the growers can make the best use of their fallow ground with cover crops.

Sonny Viator, director of the research station, told how growers could make money by using soybeans as a cover crop rather than spending money to keep the fields in shape for the next planting.

“I talked about soybeans today mainly because that’s what they grow,” Viator said. “We want to evaluate other cover crops, both winter and summer, to provide benefits to protect the soil.”

There are three benefits for the farmers to grow soybeans, Viator said. “They protect the soil from erosion, it enriches the soil, and it provides them an economic return.”

Other topics discussed by AgCenter scientists included variety updates, the upcoming Master Farmer University, fuel spill regulations, and insect and disease management.

Speakers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the American Sugar Cane League and Morgan-Kinder Pipeline also provided updates during the program.

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