The constant theme I hear this year in rice is: “I have to make a cheap crop.” I have spent my career doing what I do because I love farmers and farming. Farmers are people who have fun doing what they do and that “fits my program.” The fun is gone for everyone right now.
It is frustrating for me. I wish I could push a button and change everything, but all I can do is what I have always done — try to help you control weeds at a minimum cost.
If you commit to plant, you have to commit to control weeds — especially grass. You can tolerate more aquatics, sedges and broadleaf weeds than you would like without hurting yields, but you can lose a crop to grasses.
I believe the best bargain in grass control is Command. Some growers complain that the price keeps going up. At roughly $10 per pint, however, nothing else is close.
You can get a lot of weed control in the silt loam soils with the 0.8 pint-per-acre rate. On the clay soils, 1 to 1.25 pints per acre is usually plenty.
Get it out, and get it activated. With the air label this year, you have a little more timing flexibility. Perhaps that will allow you to time the application for a good chance of rain. Ideally, the applicator would be leaving your field with the first rain drops on the windshield.
No tank-mixes are allowed. It only takes a few days for grasses to emerge, and Command alone has no postemergence activity. The best timing for Command is right behind the drill with a ground rig and right after levee formation with an airplane.
If you plant and are going to pull levees and then use a plane to apply the Command, but it looks like you will get rained out before you can get the levees up, get Command out ahead of the rain.
Command properly activated is capable of providing all of the grass control you need. A little bit of late-breaking broadleaf signalgrass right before flooding usually will be non-competitive.
If you are lucky, Command alone may be all you need for everything, in which case you have $10-per-acre weed control. The chances of that aren't great, however.
More realistically, a properly activated Command treatment needs only a one-shot postemergent. If Command gets all the grasses, something like Storm for broadleaf and annual sedge control may be all that is needed. Propanil products, such as Super Wham, Stam, Arrosolo and Duet, have been most popular. Apply it early and perhaps you can get by with 3 quarts.
Command followed by Duet is an excellent all-around program.
I think Ricestar and Ricestar + Whip combinations will be popular this year, especially around susceptible crops.
The key to the postemergence treatment is applying it to two- to three-leaf grass, even though you can sometimes kill bigger grass.
Command followed by a properly timed postemergence treatment can give you a herbicide program for $25 to $40 per acre. This should be the goal. The reason for a $50- to $75-per-acre program is that grass was not controlled before it reached the four-leaf tillering stage.
Ford Baldwin owns Practical Weed Consultants, LLC.