By now, if you are an Arkansas rice farmer in the area of the Command aerial application project, you have either signed up fields or you have not. I'll further explain some things about the project. I again emphasize that this project does not constitute an “air label” for this area.

In addition to the field signup and other things required, there are differences compared to the federal label for ground applications. For example, this year with ground equipment, Command can be applied to rice up to the two-leaf stage and tank-mixed with “appropriate tank-mix partners.” In the aerial research project, no tank mixes are allowed.

I have heard several people says, “I want to mix mine with Roundup” or “I want to mix it with propanil or Facet.” That is fine with ground equipment but not in the air study. The reason: we didn't want any “complicating factors.” That is, if we have an excessive off-target situation, we do not want to be trying to find out whether the tank-mix partner was a contributing factor.

Not being able to tank mix in the air studies means you can't mix with Roundup for stale seedbed use, and it also means you can't add anything for emerged grasses if it is applied postemergence. Therefore, for this year, Command will need to go out as soon as possible after planting and levee construction, before any grasses emerge.

If things go well and we wind up with a full aerial label in the future, we would look to adding many of these tank-mix partners.

I have heard several people comment that they were not going to participate because they did not want a Plant Board inspector in the field during the application. I hope nobody is participating in the program that does not truly want to. The Plant Board is pulling in additional inspectors to observe as many of the applications as possible. The reason for it is far more for educational purposes than for enforcement purposes.

If the field is enrolled in the program, the aircraft has been certified and the guidelines are being followed, there is nothing for the inspector to “enforce.” However, in order to get a label in the future, the Plant Board has to be confident the product is safe. The University of Arkansas can recommend, but it is the Plant Board that must approve.

By observing many of the applications, the inspectors can relate the environmental conditions and their observation of the application to what happens around the field better. If there happens to be some off-target white vegetation later, the inspectors can then say, “Based on what I observed, I would or would not have expected that.” It might even be that he would say, “Based on the wind direction during that application, that white vegetation had to have been the result of an application in a different field.”

Hopefully everyone, whether in or out of the program, will play by the rules and follow the guidelines. I am confident that if everyone does, the project will be successful. It will only take a few instances of folks either making up their own rules or using poor judgment to kill the chances of a full aerial label forever.


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