As I wrote in my article last week, it sounds as if a high percentage of the rice acres will be planted to Clearfield rice in 2008. I would not tell a farmer this is the wrong thing to do.

The Clearfield system, especially when combined with some conventional herbicide technology, represents the best weed control technology currently available.

The one comment constantly heard in the field is “weed control sure is easier in Clearfield rice.” I hope, however, that farmers will not lose sight of the fact that Clearfield rice represents the best technology we have with no new technology development taking place. There simply are no new conventional herbicides coming along in rice.

If the wheels started turning again today, it would take years for anything to happen.

It is also obvious that GMO acceptance by our customer base will be a slow process if it happens at all. Until something changes on the GMO front, the weed control technology we have today is what we are going to have for the foreseeable future.

The Clearfield technology is ours to lose; if it is lost, there is nothing coming along to take its place.

I have said from the beginning, on any given farm the best chance of preserving the Clearfield technology is a systematic rotation among conventional rice, alternate crops and Clearfield rice.

I have no clue what the rice acres will be next year. A lot of things can change between now and planting time. Right now everything I hear on rice price is encouraging. However, other commodity prices are also good and fuel and fertilizer prices likely will continue to rise.

If the rice acreage decreases again, rice will likely be planted more on ground that grows rice better than alternate crops. This means land that is more likely to be planted in continuous rice.

A lot of us were surprised last year to find out how much continuous Clearfield rice was being planted. This became very obvious when the Clearfield 131 was pulled from the market.

The problem is once you plant Clearfield rice in a continuous rice system there is no good place to get out without planting an alternate crop. While I cannot tell an individual farmer this is the wrong thing for his situation, I am confident in saying continuous Clearfield rice is the worst-case scenario for preserving the technology on any given farm.

While rotation to alternate crops and rotation to conventional rice are the best-case scenarios for preserving the Clearfield technology, it is obvious that everyone is not going to do that.

Herbicide rotation can help. I get a lot of comments along the line that “Newpath and Beyond are so good on grass that I did not have to do anything else.” Sometimes they can be, but alternate chemistry is a good idea for grass control.

Quite honestly, barnyardgrass resistance to Newpath and Beyond concerns me more than red rice resistance. If you are going to over-use the Clearfield technology, at least mix some other herbicides into the program. No, this is not as good as rotating crops and technologies but it sure beats nothing.

Things like using Command pre-emergence, using Clearpath for one of the Newpath applications, taking out any missed grass with something like Ricestar HT, and using a propanil product tank-mixed with a Newpath application are examples of things that can help. They won’t help any toward red rice resistance management, but will help on barnyardgrass management.

I hope I do not sound negative on the Clearfield system. How can I be negative on the best technology we have? My concern is if Clearfield rice goes the way Roundup Ready crops did —total market saturation — then the wheels could come off in a hurry.

I would challenge you to think about where you really need to plant Clearfield rice versus where a conventional variety would do just as well. Keeping a good mix could help keep the technology working for you.

e-mail: ford@weedconsultants.com