farming

The LSU AgCenter estimates Hurricane Isaac has cut Louisiana's pecan harvest by 15 percent.

Charlie Graham, professor for fruit and nut crops, says that would bring the total to just over 11 million pounds — down from pre-storm estimates of 13 million to 13.5 million pounds. It still would be up from last year's 9 million pounds.

Graham says prices are likely to be similar to 2011 levels.

Last November, farm prices ran from $1.25 to $3.50 a pound, with most varieties starting above $2.

The headlines on the press releases that started showing up yesterday, here at The Salt certainly got our attention. Just one sample: "BREAKING NEWS: New Study Links Genetically Engineered Food to Tumors."

Much of Louisiana's citrus crop is rotting on the ground.

Navel oranges, satsumas, grapefruits — little was spared as Hurricane Isaac roared across southeast Louisiana, knocking fruit off tree limbs and flooding orchards in Plaquemines Parish just a month away from fall harvest.

The Saxon Becnel and Sons Citrus Nursery in Belle Chasse was spared flooding but lost about 90 percent of its oranges and half of its satsuma crop from two days of high winds that hovered over the region.

This year, the Homestead Act of 1862 turned 150. That landmark piece of legislation opened up the Western territories to settlement. Almost anybody could receive up to 160 acres for free if they built a house and "improved" the land over the course of five years. Millions took part, and eventually, more than 10 percent of all U.S. land was given away.

A German peasant named Frederick Wohler was one of those early homesteaders. Wohler received the deed to 80 acres of farmland in north-central Kansas 138 years ago this weekend. And today, the Wohlers are still there.

Some grapes like it hot.

LSU AgCenter faculty will offer information ranging from beef cattle management to pruning timber at the Hill Farm Field Day set Oct. 9.

Activities begin with registration at 9 a.m., said LSU AgCenter forestry professor Michael Blazier.

Topics to be discussed by LSU AgCenter research and extension faculty during the general station field tour include forage management, beef cattle research, the poultry demonstration house project and planting and thinning strategies for loblolly pine, Blazier said.

For every farmer who is hurting this year during the drought, others are benefiting. Many fields in the South, Northwest and Upper Midwest are producing bountiful corn crops. And because the drought has pushed prices to record highs, farmers who have corn to sell expect a terrific payday.

"The corn has actually really, really taken off all the way through season. It's grown fast. It's been accelerated. The corn looks really good now," says John Scott, whose family farm in Sargeant, Minn., is just bursting with corn.

The LSU AgCenter says Tropical Storm Isaac could wreck what was looking like an excellent year for Louisiana agriculture.

AgCenter cotton and feed grain specialist John Kruse says cotton is at the same stage it was when Hurricane Gustav destroyed the 2008 crop.

And he says about two-thirds of a record 560,000-acre corn crop was still in the field Monday because the low Mississippi River has slowed shipping.

Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain says the U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated 11 north Louisiana parishes as disaster areas because of drought.

He says he was notified Wednesday that four — Morehouse, Richland, Union and West Carroll — are primary natural disaster areas. The other seven — Caldwell, Claiborne, East Carroll, Franklin, Lincoln, Madison and Ouachita — were named because they're are adjacent to the primary disaster area.

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