Ready or not, it is time to start a new year. My family and I wish you and yours a happy and prosperous New Year.

If it were not for farmers I would not have a job. Sometimes I get to thinking I am a “has been” and wonder how much longer I can still enjoy doing what I do. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the recent Rice Outlook Conference, and it was gratifying to feel my talk went well.

I am used to my comments and opinions sometimes being a little controversial. However, I never knew I could get so many comments just by wearing a suit and getting my hair cut. I told the audience — some of which had never seen me in a suit — I wore the suit just for them but got my hair cut off because I got tired of getting it tangled in creeper wheels lying under a tractor or truck.

I can tell you that talks are a lot harder to prepare for and do now that I am not doing them on a routine basis.

I do not see how farmers navigate through the uncertainty, but I am glad you find a way to do it. I have said on many occasions, even with the problems we have, weed control is simple compared to the economic and marketing decisions you have to make.

I heard at the conference and have read lately where some economists are bullish on rice, some are bearish and at least one is skittish! I wouldn’t have a clue what to do, but I am sure farmers will figure it out.

The general consensus is rice acreage will be up because rice looks as good as or better than anything else.

At least you have the opportunity to lock in some decent fuel prices. I hope fertilizer prices will get back in line as well. We can manage weed control prices if things are done right on the front end. If they are not, we can not.

It was interesting that right before my presentation at the outlook conference a sharp young farmer came up and said, “I hope you are going to tell us something in there. I can not continue to spend $100 per acre on herbicides.” He went on to say that he had started using more contact herbicides instead of residual herbicides, which I think is probably the wrong thing to do.

His reasoning, however, was very interesting. He said that with a contact herbicide he could tell if it failed in two days, whereas with a residual he often had to wait two weeks to tell if it failed. That definitely got a chuckle, but it makes a good point about the trouble and frustrations that good farmers are having trying to control weeds — especially barnyardgrass.

A lot has been said and written about the shattering problems with the Clearfield hybrids, especially last year after the hurricane. This is not to pick on the Clearfield hybrids — any rice can experience some shattering under adverse conditions. However, shattered seed from conventional and Clearfield varieties show little tendency to go dormant and volunteer the following year.

The severity of the hybrid shattering, the fact the shattered seeds have demonstrated they will go dormant and volunteer, and the fact they are Clearfield put them in a category alone. I have been getting a few more calls each year from growers wanting to know any suggestions I might have for controlling the volunteer off-types prior to planting the next crop.

Of course, my first suggestion is not to follow Clearfield with Clearfield, but that never works because the grower has made the decision that is what will give him the best opportunity to farm again next year. While it may not be good stewardship, who am I to tell him he is wrong?

Since a volunteer crop from a hybrid is a segregating population, some of the plants will carry the Clearfield gene. Most growers just wait for as many of the volunteers to emerge as possible and spray them with glyphosate ahead of planting. This usually controls enough of the population to allow for a normal rice crop.

We are going into uncharted waters in some of the fields where excessive shattering occurred.

e-mail: ford@weedconsultants.com