Thibodaux John Deere Facility to Revitalize Cotton Harvesting

The John Deere manufacturing facility in Thibodaux, Louisiana is fixing to revolutionize its line of cotton-harvesting vehicles as well as train local high school students for future employment, as per this article from Houma Today.In April, the John Deere facility in Thibodaux will begin producing cotton pickers in order to revitalize its arsenal of cotton-harvesting vehicles. This effort will hopefully be able to circumvent and counteract what General Manager Mike Duplantis calls “stagnant technology.”  Mike Suplantis spoke to the South Central Industrial Association about the Thibodaux facility’s future plans by saying, “we’re replacing a design that is 30 years old. The product we’re going to be doing now is a clean sheet, redesigned, medium chassis cotton picker.”

The new cotton pickers have reportedly been completely redesigned from the ground up, and the current plans are to have them offered in two forms: balers and baskets. The baler will throw out harvested cotton in bales in a similar fashion to a hay baler, and the basket will be able to store cotton that has been harvested. As of March, the Thibodaux facility has already begun to create parts for the vehicles, and assembly is set to begin in April. The John Deere company is expecting production of the new cotton harvesters to reach full capacity by 2025.

In addition to the production of new cotton harvesters, the John Deere manufacturing facility in Thibodaux has also partnered with Fletcher Technical College and the Lafourche Career Magnet Center to begin working with two high school juniors as apprentices. The program aims to help these students to gain valuable work experience while they get their education. Interviews for these positions are expected to begin soon. Essentially, students who enter into the program will attend their high-school classes part-time in the mornings of their fall and spring semesters and work at John Deere in the evenings.

Duplantis commented on the benefits of the program by saying, “this is allowing us to teach such that these young individuals come out after their senior year and we know ’em, they know our processes, they know what we do. If we’re hiring, guess what? They’ll be making $50,000 to $60,000 a year.” Duplantis also told the South Central Industrial Association that the new cartoon harvester production will be creating between 50 and 100 new local production jobs as well as 10 to 12 engineering jobs.

Currently, the John Deere facility is housed in the former Cameco building, which is located along LA 3266. In 1998, John Deere, Inc. acquired the facility when they bought Cameco in order to become established in the sugar cane business. Since 2000, the Thibodaux site has been a design center for sugar harvesting and each-moving scraper equipment, and since 2015, it’s been a site and design center for Cane Harvesters.

Recently, the facility, which is 650,000 square feet, has seen a $29.8 million overhaul in preparation for its vehicle production. This overhaul created 70 new direct jobs with an average annual salary of $47,472, retained 311 existing jobs in Louisiana, which included 284 jobs at the Lafourche Parish facility, and the project also resulted in 110 new indirect jobs for a total of 180 jobs in the Bayou Region.

When the expansion was announced, Lafourche Parish President Archie Chaisson said, “John Deere’s expansion is a huge win for Lafourche Parish. The addition of new manufacturing lines to John Deere Thibodaux shows how productive and efficient this facility is, which is a testament to the local workforce and management. The Thibodaux facility’s successful competition for these new cotton harvesters shows just how competitive Lafourche Parish can be.”

For more Louisiana-related articles, click here.

LSU AgCenter Received Grant for Sustainable Rice Research

It was recently announced via this news release from the LSU AgCenter, that one of their scientists has been awarded a $10 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture in order to improve the sustainability and profitability of rice farming. This will be accomplished through the LSU AgCenter scientists’s innovations in research that advance crops that are reportedly climate-resistant. The Louisiana State University Agricultural Center School School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences received this $10 million grant as a part of a $70 million dollar investment from the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture in order to establish robust, resilient, and climate-smart food and agricultural systems. As of the writing of this article, it is the largest grant for rice research that the LSU AgCenter has ever received.

William F. Tate IV, LSU President, commented on Louisiana State University’s Agricultural Center’s awarded grant by saying, “agricultural innovation remains paramount to the future of Louisiana. Securing federal funding for projects like this empowers LSU’s Scholarship First Agenda and enables us to further leverage our agricultural expertise.”

The need for Louisiana rice farming to become more sustainable and profitable is apparent as the state’s rice production currently contributes $550 million to Louisiana’s economy, and this amount is regularly affected by extreme weather patterns resulting from climate change. These extreme weather patterns pose significant challenges to enhancing rice production productivity, so this project is extremely vital, as its outcomes aim to assist southern rice growers to “make the right decisions at the right time to reduce yield losses, land use, water and energy consumption.”

Prasanta Subudhi is the lead investigator of the project and a crop geneticist in the LSU School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences. Subudhi commented on how their project will affect the future of Louisiana rice production by saying, “we will equip the current and next generation of rice farmers, consultants and researchers with the necessary knowledge and skill set to embrace the new climate-smart agriculture technologies and production practices.”

Specifically, the project’s objectives are listed as aiming to “assess the socio-economic and environmental impacts of current crop management practices and identify barriers to adopting novel technologies and practices; develop novel genotypes with enhanced tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses; develop and optimize environmentally friendly crop management practices; and implement a robust extension program to disseminate the concepts and benefits of sustainable farming technology.”

Reportedly, the project will use all knowledge gained through rice research to increase both the speed and accuracy of the identification of rice genotypes that have desirable combinations of genes for improved adaptation to a changing climate. Matt Lee, the Interim Vice President of Agriculture and Dean of the College of Agriculture, said, “with this project, the AgCenter is showing its commitment to promoting and disseminating sustainable farming practices and technologies and to training of the next generation of researchers and extension workers.”

This grant comes after last year, when the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station in Crowley, Louisiana developed a new type of rice used to improve blood sugar levels. Additionally, a partnership with the Lafayette Parish Master Gardener Association, the Lafayette 4-H program, and the LSU AGCenter that incorporates gardens in schools saw students from five elementary schools — Alice Boucher, Charles Burke, Cathedral-Carmel, Green T. Lindon and Cpl. Michael Middlebrook — compete in the On Cuisine du Jardine, making complete nutritional meals using at least two ingredients grown in their school gardens. These two pieces of recent LSU AgCenter news coupled with this recent grant award, contribute to the Center’s impact on education, agriculture, and Louisiana as a whole.

For more education-related information, click here.