I have had several calls from consultants asking about options to use in place of Command as the price increased some this year and growers are looking for ways to reduce costs anywhere they can. While I may sometimes sound like it, I do not sell the herbicide. There are a lot of ways to control weeds in rice and my only interest is that you have a clean crop in the most efficient manner possible. I would simply remind you where Command put you in terms of being able to control grass in rice. I agree that this was not a good year for anyone to increase herbicide prices. When asked “what I thought” about the price increase earlier in the spring, I told the company rep the same thing. However, Command remains the standard for comparison for grass control.
Several have asked about using Prowl in place of Command to save money. There was a lot of Prowl being used in rice before Command was labeled. Most growers switched to Command for a reason. Prowl provides good grass control sometimes but it is far less consistent compared to Command. In addition, the rice needs to have imbibed its germination water before the Prowl is applied. There is a good fit for Prowl around incorporated areas, nurseries and other sensitive areas where Command can not be used.
Several have also asked about reducing Command rates and what the effect would be. On silt loam soils, studies I have conducted showed that Command rates as low as 0.5 pint per acre provided initial grass control comparable to labeled rates. The difference was in the length of the residual period. Length of residual can be important, but controlling that very first flush of grass that emerges with the rice is more important. Therefore, if a reduced rate is an alternative to using no Command, some Command is better than no Command.
Much of the rice is planted. If no Command was used preemergence, there is still the option to apply it postemergence. The more I have used the Super Wham, Duet, Ricestar HT and Clincher combinations with Command, the better I have liked them. In a lot of grass situations, the Command mixtures perform comparable to the same herbicides mixed with Facet. However, the Command combinations are much better on sprangletop. When the grasses are small, the Command in the mixtures is contributing more to the postemergence control than I initially thought it would.
My concern is if you try to save too much money on the front end in the weed control program, it will bite you. Through the years, I have seen a lot of attempts at early savings cost far more later on. We have some herbicides now that are more effective on bigger grass. However, little grass is much easier to kill than big grass. In addition, big grass robs yield even when controlled.
I like Command in rice because it immediately became the standard for comparison in our research program. It quickly became the grower standard as well. Most of the alternatives available today were being used when Command came along. Yes, it costs less then than it does now. However, the reason it became the standard was because it provided superior grass control. I get very few grown up mess calls where it has been used. Also, keep in mind we have a lot more trouble getting post-emergence herbicides applied than we do pre-emergence herbicides. If this spring is windy, extremely dry or extremely wet, postemergence control becomes more difficult.
Whatever program you choose this year, get the grass under control as quickly as possible. The sooner you can do that, the sooner you have things going your way and these will wind up being the most economical programs in the long run.
Ford Baldwin, Practical Weed Consultants. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.