I have spent a couple of days out in the countryside with officials from the Arkansas State Plant Board looking at rice fields sprayed with Command in the aerial application research program. It would appear that we are going to wind up with somewhere around 18,000 to 20,000 acres treated out of around 54,000 acres signed up.

With the warm April early, a lot of the enrolled area was planted and emerged before we could begin the spray program April 14. As a result, some of the fields were sprayed with Command by ground application and others were sprayed with Facet for emerged grasses.

The acreage we have sprayed with Command has provided an excellent study. It is probably not my place to declare the program a smashing success. I obviously want it to be because I stuck my neck way out by almost begging the decision-makers at FMC and at the Arkansas State Plant Board to let us give it a try.

The ultimate success, however, will be determined by whether or not a federal aerial label is attained. This is not an aerial application versus ground application issue with me. A lot of aerial applicators were upset last year because they lost business to the ground rigs applying Command. At the same time, businesses that have made significant investments in equipment to apply Command by ground see the threat of a loss of acreage if the aerial label is approved.

From that standpoint, I can't win. I am interested in what is best for the farmer, and it would be an advantage to the farmer to have the option to apply the herbicide by air or ground.

Thus far, there has not been a single complaint about an aerially sprayed Command field. Everyone involved has been extremely impressed with the applications on the fields sprayed.

In most cases, any white vegetation is right at the edge of the fields. In a few cases, there can be some white vegetation across the road or turn row. The absolute worse case I have seen is movement for about 50 yards.

I do think some may have become a little braver as the program progressed and pushed to the upper end of the wind restriction. I haven't seen a field where by holding off one pass on the downwind side, there would have been no white vegetation outside the field.

It would be impossible in most cases to identify the ground fields from the air fields without the spray records.

One extremely positive thing that has come from the program is the aerial applicators who have participated have definitely raised their stock with the plant board. They have shown beyond a doubt that with the proper aircraft setup and good judgment, they can put the herbicide in the target area.

Part of the success is no surprise to me. Command does not have any registered postemergence uses. It is a pre-emergence herbicide that can turn some species or emerged plants white. It does not result in any permanent damage. A lot of people who will have a lot of say in the final decisions on this project have been impressed and pleasantly surprised.

The plant board has done an outstanding job conducting the program. We are driving the countryside trying to find white vegetation. In the old days of Command 4EC on cotton, one didn't have to go looking for it. You couldn't get away from it. Hopefully things will continue to look good and we can move forward.


Ford Baldwin is an Arkansas Extension weed scientist. e-mail: fbaldwin@uaex.edu