A great way to begin the year is to attend a good cross section of grower meetings. There will be plenty of both industry-sponsored and university-sponsored meetings to choose from. I suggest attending some of both.

The industry-sponsored meetings provide a chance to hear about new technology from an industry prospective. The university-sponsored meetings will provide the latest research information and help you put things together in programs.

I recently attended a University of Arkansas-sponsored meeting and found it both entertaining and very informative. Jeremy Ross gave an excellent soybean production and variety update.

There is an increasing interest in both conventional and LibertyLink soybeans. Last year was the first year for LibertyLink varieties to be included in the University of Arkansas variety trials. Jeremy did a good job providing a comparison between the different varieties and production systems.

Chuck Wilson provided a rice production update and spent most of his time talking about a developing new technology for using soil tests to determine nitrogen rates. We have used soil tests for determining rates of other nutrients for years, but accurate tests for determining nitrogen rates have eluded the soils guys until now. Chuck provided a very informative update on where they are with this procedure and the potential it offers for optimizing nitrogen rates.

When you are not sure what the optimum rate is, the tendency is to over-fertilize to make sure you do not run short. The result is often unnecessary expense, increased lodging, increased disease pressure. The end result can quite often be reduced yield at a higher cost — just the opposite of what you are trying to accomplish.

I believe the soil test nitrogen procedure represents a tremendous breakthrough in rice fertility and you will enjoy hearing about it.

Rick Cartwright is the best monotone speaker I have ever heard. He is also in my opinion the best rice pathologist in the country. His information is excellent and you also have to be ready for the occasional dry “zingers” that will catch you off guard.

Rick concentrated on rice neck blast and how it is eating our lunch in far too many fields. He was very straightforward about how a lot of the blast problem is often self-inflicted.

Proper choice of varieties, proper nitrogen management, and proper water management are keys to managing this disease. While we have fungicides for blast control, they are often inadequate if key cultural practice mistakes are made. Listening to Rick and putting his advice to practice will make you money and help you avoid a disaster.

I saved the weed guy until last. Bob Scott always does a good job and it was interesting to hear another weed scientist express frustration and concern about the lack of new herbicides for rice weed control. Our rice weed control technology is very dated. The patent has expired on essentially every rice herbicide.

We are continuing to do a good job with the current technology, but resistance management is critical because there is nothing new on the horizon. In his presentations, Bob provides practical insights into resistance management in rice and also on how to manage glyphosate-resistant Palmer pigweed.

I have hammered you all winter on resistance management. I challenge you to go hear about the topic from other perspectives. Bob provides an excellent perspective as does Ken Smith. I can assure you these guys did not hire me to do a commercial for them. We just have both challenges and opportunities in the upcoming production season. Go hear these guys and others and be as up to date and informed as possible.

e-mail: ford@weedconsultants.com