Chased from beautiful, bountiful rice fields by wet weather, the crowd at the Aug. 21 Clearfield field day in Hickory Ridge, Ark., listened to speakers from under a large tent. There was plenty of good news for fans of increasingly popular Clearfield varieties.

“Clearfield 171 was a new release this year,” said Lance Schmidt, Horizon Ag's district sales manager for Arkansas and Missouri (Horizon Ag handles Clearfield varieties). CL171 “is out of (University of Arkansas rice breeder) Karen Moldenhauer's program. It's a CL161/Wells selection and we've seen some excellent results with seed production. We'll (soon) have a handle on the variety's potential.”

When growing CL171, “one of the biggest things is to plant early. We've seen excellent yields when CL171 is planted early. As the planting date (gets later), some of the yield drops off.”

The disease package for CL171 is improved over CL161. It does have susceptibility to sheath blight, but “from what I can tell, it's very manageable. Usually one shot (of a fungicide) is enough to take care of the sheath blight.”

Standability in CL171 is very good. “Last year, we had it in many production fields and hardly any lodging was seen — even in areas where excessive nitrogen rates were applied. The last couple of years, (Cash, Ark., producer) John Greer has looked at CL171 on some high pH/high salt areas. He's seen (CL171 do better) than other varieties on the farm in those situations. It's very tolerant of pH and salt.”

While Clearfield 171 has great promise, Schmidt said CL151 is coming up aces. “Our whole company is excited about it. We've seen some really good results from it. It's high-performance/high-tolerance and good milling. It has the total package. It'll allow flexibility.”

CL151's disease package is similar to Cheniere. It is susceptible to sheath blight. “But when looking at plots in this area … it's very manageable. One thing needs to be said: it's susceptible to straighthead. It's similar to Cocodrie as far as that.”

By the time of the field day, rice harvest in south Louisiana and Texas had been going on for several weeks. Michael Fruge, Horizon Ag's district sales manager for the region, said, “We're probably 50 percent complete. We're having an extremely good year — both states are probably cutting the best crops we ever have. Some of the LSU (AgCenter employees) believe Louisiana will set a yield record this year. Last year, the record was set at 144.7 bushels. I think we'll be higher than that this year.”

All varieties in the region “are doing really well including conventional varieties like Cocodrie and Cheniere. We're cutting our best CL161 crop we ever have. The majority of yields have been 166 to 185 bushels. For south Louisiana, that's extremely good — we don't usually get 161 to perform that well.”

However, the thing that's “really exciting is CL151. Cocodrie, Cheniere, and Trenasse have been yielding about 180 bushels. I think CL151 is 10 to 15 percent better than that, this year. The majority of the (CL151) we've cut so far has been 185 to 212 bushels per acre.”

One south Louisiana farmer — “probably the largest seed-grower of Clearfield (in the region) — had 350 acres of CL151. He averaged 194 bushels.”

Another grower recently finished harvesting 110 acres that yielded 59 barrels. “I think that (translates to) about 212 bushels.

“I also had a demonstration field in the Winnie area east of Houston, Texas. That's a tough area (for rice) and most of the yields are in the 160- to 170-bushel range. CL151 cut 185 bushels.”

Tropical storm Eduardo traveled through south Texas on a Tuesday. The Winnie field was harvested on Friday. “About 30 percent of the field had lodged because of the storm and we still picked up 185 bushels. The farmer was extremely happy.”

Another Texas grower had 347 acres of CL151. “He cut anywhere from 185 to 207 bushels. All the seed on that acreage was planted at 18 to 19 pounds per acre.”

All the yields cited by Fruge are from fields “planted at lower seeding rates than what we typically do. We didn't have enough seed this year. I don't know of any south Louisiana field that was planted much higher than 50 pounds per acre.

“Next year, if we shoot for better seeding rates — 65 or 70 pounds — we'll see better stands and may get better yields.

“At a field day in south Louisiana, we cut some Dermacor plots. On the CL171, we averaged 178 bushels. The CL161 averaged 197.3 bushels and the CL151 averaged 223 bushels. Those are extremely high yields.”

What percentage of the acreage in south Louisiana is in Clearfield?

“I think we're pushing 60 percent with both variety and hybrids. From what I've seen from some conventional rice this year, I think (Clearfield) will be at close to 75 percent. (Growers) are tired of fighting and starting to realize how nice dry-planting is.”

What about CL151 availability?

“We've got quite a bit of seed production but with the demand we're already starting to see, I encourage people to book seed as quick as you can,” said Schmidt.