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Louisiana farmers predict planting 'a lot of corn'

Farmers Dan Bedgood and Erick Cherene of Madison Parish have a quick answer when asked to describe the upcoming growing season in North Louisiana.

"A lot of corn," they said in unison.

The farming partners were among more than 200 people who attended the recent Louisiana State University AgCenter Corn and Soybean Forum, according to an LSU AgCenter news release.

Bedgood and Cherene said they planted 1,000 acres of corn in 2006, but they will plant up to 4,000 acres of corn this year. They still plan to have some acreage in soybeans and cotton, but they said they're not sure how much of those they'll plant.

"For sure, less cotton," Bedgood said.

LSU AgCenter county agent Keith Collins of Richland Parish said last year's Louisiana corn acreage of more than 300,000 acres could double this year, and the state's soybean acreage of 830,000 acres is projected to remain static -- although Collins said he expects Northeast Louisiana farmers to have an increase in soybeans.

Last year's state average soybean yield set a record with 35 bushels per acre.

LSU AgCenter grain specialist Dr. David Lanclos said with higher commodity prices, corn farmers will be considering fungicides, even though fungal diseases on a corn crop typically do not have devastating effects on yields like the diseases on rice and soybeans. He said research results are mixed concerning whether fungicides can help corn yields.

"We are not recommending fungicides be applied on corn this year," Lanclos said. "But I encourage you to try some on a few acres and leave some untreated test strips for comparison."

Lanclos said tests conducted by some of the agrichemical companies suggest there may be some value in applying fungicides to increase yields of corn, adding, however, that more research is needed before the practice could be recommended by LSU AgCenter scientists.

In another report during the forum, Wyly Gilfoil, director of the Port of Lake Providence, said work is progressing on an ethanol facility at the port.

When the plant is ready by late 2008 or early 2009 it will have the capacity to use 30 million bushels of corn a year to produce 100 million gallons of ethanol, Gilfoil said. The Massachusetts company building the plant, BioEnergy International LLC, has plans to double the facility's capacity in five years, he said.

Gilfoil said government funding to maintain a navigable channel to the port is needed to allow access for barges hauling corn. In addition, he said negotiations are under way for rail service.

Gilfoil said the plant expects to buy corn from grain dealers and directly from farmers. It will have storage facilities for a 10-day to two-week supply, he said.

That was good news for farmer Vic Jordan of Rayville. He said the limited storage capacity at the plant could mean farmers will be paid to store their grain until the ethanol facility needs it.

Jordan is expecting a good year for 2007 from his anticipated acreage of 2,100 acres of corn, 1,200 acres of soybeans and 500 to 700 acres of cotton.

"This will be the first year in a long time that we could see an actual profit," he said, adding that the 2007 crop will benefit from this winter's rainfall.

Farmers Dan Bedgood and Erick Cherene of Madison Parish have a quick answer when asked to describe the upcoming growing season in North Louisiana.

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