Last week I wrote about managing to prevent herbicide resistance in conventional rice. This week, I’ll share some thoughts about preserving the Clearfield technology.

I have noticed a renewed advertising effort on the part of industry to promote Clearfield stewardship. I wish it had begun several years ago, but we can only start here and go forward at this point.

Where stewardship or resistance management programs of any type have broken down in the past has been at the field level. In order for a program to work, someone has to be willing to step up and say, “You have used my product enough in this field, I suggest you go to an alternate program this year.” In my 20 years of dealing with herbicide resistance, I have not seen this happen. Perhaps we are getting to the point now where it can, because that is part of what will be required to preserve the technology.

A big part of any resistance management program is using less of the same thing. In the case of Clearfield rice, for some growers it means planting less in any given year. I fully realize we have land in Arkansas that is much better suited to growing rice than any other crop. Because of this, most of the fields have a red rice problem and once they are planted to Clearfield rice, it is difficult to get out of the cycle.

Every grower must do what he feels is best for him. My question is, “Do you have a Plan B for when the technology blows up?” Industry has missed an opportunity to help by not labeling Beyond to be used as needed instead of only after two applications of Newpath. While this would not provide a total solution by any means, it would give the grower who is committed to rice following rice a better chance of rotating Clearfield and conventional rice. It is not fair to place all the burden on the farmer when there are tools in the toolbox that could help.

The first step is diversity. Do everything possible to keep from using Clearfield rice two years in a row or two consecutive times through the crop rotation cycle. As the LibertyLink soybean varieties become more available, there is a great opportunity to rotate Clearfield rice, Roundup Ready soybeans, conventional rice and LibertyLink soybeans in a system. This program would do wonders for preserving a lot of different herbicides.

Since the beginning of the Clearfield program, I have advocated a rotation of Clearfield rice, soybeans and conventional rice. While there may still be a little red rice in the conventional rice cycle, it is a much better alternative to being grown up in resistant red rice in a few years. I do not profess to have all the answers on crop diversity on every farm but, I can tell you that more diversity is better than less diversity.

The only way to manage red rice resistance and out-crossing in Clearfield rice is through crop diversity to simply take the Newpath and Beyond selection pressure off the red rice in consecutive years. However, red rice is not the only concern. Some growers have the philosophy that “if I get resistant red rice, I will just have to go back to managing the problem like I did before Clearfield came along.”

If a grower feels strongly enough that has merit on his farm, I can’t argue with it. However, I feel ALS-resistant barnyardgrass may be a bigger threat to the Clearfield system than resistant red rice. If we push the technology to the point it blows up on barnyardgrass, the Clearfield system becomes a red rice only technology (as long as it works). In addition, a barnyardgrass blow up in Clearfield will likely take Regiment and Grasp out of conventional rice as well.

Preserving the Clearfield technology on barnyardgrass will take a mix of herbicides in the program. I believe Command is the key to holding it together and thus I have circled back around to the fact we are hanging our hat on that herbicide.

e-mail: ford@weedconsultants.com