Arkansas rice acres are ready for fertilizer and a flood. Problem is there's still a wealth of weeds in many fields.

“I hate flooding up on grass, but there are many weedy fields being flooded right now,” says Bob Scott, Arkansas Extension weed specialist. “The main reason for this situation is the heavy winds we've had, in some cases, for weeks. Planes can't fly chemicals on in this weather. What that means, unfortunately, is we're going to have a lot of post-flood herbicide applications. The crop just got much more expensive to grow.”

Normally, it goes against Ford Baldwin's philosophy to flood a field that still has grass in it. Baldwin is a firm believer in killing grass of any size. But, “these extended wet periods along with sustained high winds (out of the southwest at 20 or 30 miles per hour) have us in a bad spot. This year, we'll have more grass being sprayed post-flood than I can remember in a long time,” says the weed scientist/consultant (and Delta Farm Press contributor). “We've got some ugly fields cooking — especially if they haven't had Command put down yet. Those woolly fields, in turn, set us up for increased stink bug problems and other things.”

As far as how widespread the problem is, “all I can go by is how many phone calls I'm getting,” says Scott. “If that's any indication, though, the problem is statewide. There's been a steady stream of calls asking, ‘Do I use some Facet/Ricestar/Clincher now? Should I wait and go with Clincher and Facet post-flood?’ Those calls keep rolling in.

“In our research results, we've seen better efficacy from Clincher if it's sprayed post-flood,” says Scott. “What producers will probably do is put the fertilizer and flood on and get about two-thirds of the grass above the flood. Then, they'll come back with something like Clincher to take the grass out.”

Dearth of product

Besides the driving winds, another problem has emerged: a shortage of needed herbicides. Baldwin, Scott and consultants across east Arkansas report shortages of Clincher. Supplies of Newpath are also reportedly running short along with several others.

“We're starting to get thin on a bunch of chemicals,” says Brad Koen, a consultant with Southern Agronomic Resources based in the state's Grand Prairie region. “Dealers have called me warning they're running out. We're having trouble finding Clincher and Duet. If those products aren't around, that will be a major problem as grown up as our rice fields are. If we don't get some Clincher in here quick, this could get ugly.”

“I haven't heard of a Facet shortage yet,” says Scott. “Part of what may have prevented that is we've been unable to spray and use up our supply. One thing's for sure: a lot of Facet that needed to go out over the last couple of weeks is still sitting in the shed.”

Scott and Baldwin question why shortages were allowed to happen.

“This happens too often — it's too common,” says Baldwin. “I'm frustrated.”

From what Scott can gather, “chemical companies are trying to predict, down to the pallet, how much product will be in play during the growing season. They don't want any carryover.

“However, when it comes to post-flood materials such predications are pretty much impossible. I can't tell you how much post-flood spraying we'll be doing next year. It all depends on what's done early in the season, how much wind we have, does our Command get activated — just a bunch of unknowns. Frankly, it's very frustrating to make recommendations and then find out the producers can't find the product.”

Several chemical reps say there are indeed shortages, although they're of the “spot” variety.

“Some of the products — like Clincher — we get in spurts,” says Bobby Bradbury, Helena Chemical branch manager, in DeWitt. “As I understand it, the lack of Clincher is due to a manufacturing situation. I'm told fresh Clincher should be available (by mid-June).”

According to Clincher product managers at Dow, there's plenty of supply — in fact, double the amount available last year. Inventory is fine, the company insists, and more Clincher should arrive in the Delta by the second week of June.

“I don't know of a product that's currently in short supply that we won't be getting more of soon,” says Bradbury. “I am a bit concerned about getting some of these products in a timely manner. I don't know of any that we won't get sooner or later, though… (I'm told) we should have some more Newpath the first week of June.”

Bradbury — and the producers he serves — will indeed have Newpath by then, promises Bruce Cranfill. “The rice industry adopted the Clearfield technology at a rate that exceeded our most optimistic expectations,” says the marketing manager for Clearfield rice (BASF). “The seed was sold out and, best guess, there's at least 470,000 acres of Clearfield rice. That's tremendous.

“We did make enough Newpath to treat all those acres. A couple of things caused us to run a bit short last week, though. One reason: the acres were a bit more than we thought. Because seed supplies were so short, some farmers probably used a lower seeding rate to stretch… We did run a little shorter than we wanted.”

Regardless, more Newpath is on the way. “We're making more. Some growers haven't made their second application of Newpath and, for stewardship purposes, they need that opportunity.”

Additional Newpath will be in the marketplace on Monday morning (June 7). “We're getting it to dealers fast,” says Cranfill. “This is a very, very high priority. It's being packaged today (June 4), will be trucked over the weekend and will be in warehouses Monday morning.”

In order to get product out quickly, fresh Newpath will be packaged in 15-gallon kegs. “We're doing this simply for speed purposes,” says Cranfill. “We don't see this as a long-term package size. Next year, we'll be back to original package sizes.”

Lay of the land

Clearfield rice producers must do their best to get two 4-ounce applications of Newpath out, says Scott. Any escaped red rice has the potential to outcross with their Clearfield rice.

“This spring's weather has created a double-whammy in Clearfield rice. We've got poor weed control and, as a result, the potential for outcrossing. A bunch of Clearfield acres haven't been sprayed or haven't been sprayed in a timely manner. That's not good at all. Here we are at flood and I can't get off the phone with producers wondering what to do.”

However, there is some good news: Arkansas has received a Section 24-C for Beyond. Beyond, from BASF, is labeled as a salvage product for controlling any escaped red rice plants. It's to be used at 5 ounces per acre following 8 ounces of Newpath.

“I have a feeling this will be a timely 24-C,” says Scott. “With some of the situations we've got in Clearfield, we'll be looking for a salvage treatment soon enough.”

Baldwin, too, says he's “very concerned” about outcrossing. “We've got a 24-C for Beyond and that's great. I just hope there's an adequate supply. You know, we've got some excellent products to control weeds in rice, and we may pull it off. Maybe we'll be able to clean all these rice fields up perfectly. If that happens, though, we'll be lucky.”


e-mail: dbennett@primediabusiness.com