Humanities group seeking nominations

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is accepting nominations until 5 p.m. Dec. 18 for its 2016 Humanities Awards.

The awards honor Louisianians who have made outstanding contributions to the study and understanding of the humanities.

Award categories include lifetime contribution to the humanities; humanities documentary film of the year; Michael P. Smith documentary photography; humanities book of the year; and “light up for literacy.”

For information on nominations and criteria, visit the LEH website www.leh.org.

Heat exchanger firm adds fabrication shop

GEO Heat Exchangers LLC in St. Gabriel has added a 22,000-square-foot shop at 3650 Cypress Avenue Drive for the fabrication of new heat exchangers and parts.

The 80-foot-wide shop has a clean room for welding alloys and two cranes with a 50-ton lift capacity.

The company plans to add 20 to 25 new shop employees, including welders, machinists and boilermakers.

Founded in 1997, the company’s work is related to the fabrication and repair of shell and tube heat exchangers for the oil, gas, chemical and power industries.

The phone number is (225) 642-8900.

Nominations sought for agriculture inductees

Nominations for inductees into the Louisiana Agriculture Hall of Distinction are being accepted through Dec. 15 to honor those who have made significant contributions to agriculture or agriculture-related industries.

Nominations can represent farming, ranching, forestry, aquaculture, fisheries, education or agribusiness.

It is a joint effort of the LSU AgCenter, Louisiana Radio Network and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.

The nomination form can be found online at www.louisianaagriculturehallofdistinction.com or through any parish LSU AgCenter extension office.

Selected nominees will be recognized during a banquet at L’Auberge Hotel in Baton Rouge on March 17.

La. farmers receiving ‘safety net’ payments

Some 15,662 Louisiana farms enrolled in new safety-net programs established by the 2014 farm bill will soon receive financial assistance for the 2014 crop year.

The programs, known as Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage, are designed to protect against unexpected drops in crop prices or revenue because of market downturns.

“These new safety-net programs provide help when price and revenues fall below normal, unlike the previous direct payments program that provided funds even in good years,” said Craig McCain, the USDA Louisiana Farm Service Agency executive director. “For example, 30 (parishes) in Louisiana harvest long-grain rice and producers have experienced a 16 percent drop in price below the statutory reference price established by the PLC program.”

Similarly, the parish-based option of ARC protects against lower revenue from a combination of price and yield.

“For example, 36 (parishes) in Louisiana harvest corn and producers have experienced a 30.1 percent drop in price below the historical benchmark price established by the ARC-CO program,” McCain said.

Researchers get grant for grass-fed beef study

A group of scientists from the LSU AgCenter and Southern University AgCenter received a grant of $480,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Foundational Programs to conduct research and outreach activities related to grass-fed beef production.

The project is led by Guillermo Scaglia, who conducts beef cattle research at the LSU AgCenter Iberia Research Station.

The grant will allow the researchers to gather information on grass-fed beef management practices and build upon knowledge gathered in previous projects.

“We will look at economics, marketing and breed type effects that will close a gap of missing information needed by producers, extension agents, businesses and other clientele,” Scaglia said. On-farm evaluation of the productivity and economic performance of different breed types and cover crops for grazing is an important aspect of the research, he said. Several producers will collaborate with the researchers for the project.

Researchers studying crops among trees

Growing crops among trees in a managed forest can contribute to rural economic development, a group of LSU AgCenter researchers said during a presentation recently at the national convention of the Society of American Foresters in Baton Rouge.

Landowners can take advantage of several approaches to growing timber, said Terry Clason, a retired LSU AgCenter researcher.

A silvopasture is a land-use management system that integrates timber, forage and livestock. This simultaneously supports a timber crop, high-quality forage and livestock production while sustaining the ecosystem and providing diversified marketing opportunities for rural economic development, Clason said.

In addition to silvopasture, another practice is what Clason calls forest farming, where fruits and vegetables are grown under the tree canopy. Forest farming works well for small land owners, Clason said.

Another approach, alley cropping, provides several benefits, said AgCenter forest researcher Mike Blazier.

He’s growing switchgrass in a series of trials in Louisiana and Arkansas.

Two studies consist of cultivating switchgrass as a biofuel feedstock within alleys between loblolly pine and eastern cottonwood.

Switchgrass can be grown for grazing, hay or biofuels, and cottonwood has potential as a fuel feedstock.

“Biofuel is an unestablished market with potential,” he said. “But in the meantime, we’ve learned about growing the crops.”

Michelle Gonzales, a research associate with Blazier at the AgCenter Hill Farm Research Station in Homer, has been studying soil quality in the cottonwood and switchgrass trials. Alternative crops such as switchgrass and cottonwood trees capture soil carbon and produce less nitrogen in soil water, Gonzales said.