Researchers discussed sustainability, farmland conservation and better water quality at the Cotton and Grain Field Day held at Somerset Plantation in Tensas Parish June 24. Attendees took part in unique learning opportunities and hands-on demonstrations that highlighted the benefits of the best management practices that Louisiana State University AgCenter researchers are studying as part of a $1.4 million grant from the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation.
Producers attended the event to learn about improving ecosystem services and reducing chemical fertilizer losses — practices that researchers ensure are environmentally and financially sustainable.
The Hardwick Planting Co.’s Somerset Plantation is one of two model farms of the Taylor Project and houses the cotton and grain portion of the project.
The project aims to reduce the amount of chemicals that are used in and lost from current agricultural systems by developing a portfolio of practices that improve environmental sustainability.
Brenda Tubana, one of two principle investigators and AgCenter professor studying soil fertility, said she appreciates any opportunity to educate farmers on her research.
“This field day highlighted the best management practices we employ in the model farms,” she said. “The program set a place for everyone, beginners to established farmers, students, researchers and the ag industry.”
Many of the field day presentations emphasized the factors that contribute to agricultural sustainability practices and the responsibilities that farmers have to make changes.
During field tours, farmers were able to see methods that are currently being tested on small plots. A portfolio of eight best management practices were highlighted during the field day: cover crops, crop rotation, residue management, reduced tillage, fertility management, crop selection, water management and integrated pest management.
Also at the field day, Mead Hardwick received recognition as the 2020 Outstanding Master Farmer.
“It is an honor to receive this award,” Hardwick said. “It is important to know that the efforts that you’ve made are validated. It also means that we are equipped with the tools to care for our property and our farming heritage that will sustain it for generations to come.”
The Louisiana Master Farmer Program helps agricultural producers voluntarily address environmental concerns while enhancing the production and resource management skills they need for the continued sustainability of Louisiana agriculture.
Hardwick Planting Co. is a family owned and operated agriculture business focused on progressive and sustainable farming practices.
“By being a master farmer, we know that we are using the best possible methods and practices to be great stewards of the land and ensure that we are not degrading its ability to not only provide for us but to provide food, fiber and fuel for the world,” Hardwick said.
Hardwick was presented with a plaque and two monetary awards sponsored by the Louisiana Land Bank and Gowan Company. In addition to the AgCenter, the Louisiana Farm Bureau, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, the Louisiana Cattlemen’s Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service help lead Master Farmer trainings.
The LSU AgCenter contributed this article.