At the annual Rice Research and Extension Center field day in Stuttgart, Nathan Slaton greeted hay-riding tourists from behind sets of flower pots and 5-gallon buckets. All held samples from research plots. Among the tests and his comments:

  • Comparisons of tests of precision-leveled rice fields and soil amendments, including P and K, “miracle products” and poultry litter (both fresh and pelletized).

    “First, if a product sounds too good to be true, it is. So-called miracle products provide little, if any, response compared to the poultry litter. Poultry litter continues to be impressive.”

  • Polymer-coated urea for rice.

    “These (plant samples) represent a product being tested at both retail and research levels in the Midwest. It's slow-release nitrogen — a silver bullet we've been interested in because it would allow us to preplant incorporate nitrogen and not worry about rains in May and June. Using this may allow us to flood whenever we want.”

    The economics of using the product will be driven by the price of rice and, to a greater extent, the price of urea and the coating. Producers may be able to offset much of the cost with a lower application charge.

    “Our research is limited,” says Slaton. “Preliminary assessments of plots indicate preplant incorporated polymer-coated urea looks similar on a pound-to-pound basis to our standard practice of applying urea pre-flood.”

  • Agrotain is a treatment applied to urea before it's flown onto a field. A urease inhibitor, Agrotain delays the gaseous loss of nitrogen in the field.

“By delaying that reaction, we have more time to get water on the field. Efficiency is better and more nitrogen is available to the plants. We applied plain urea and Agrotain-treated urea a week before flooding. In another set of plots the products were applied to a muddy soil.

“It doesn't matter (which product) you use, plants have better growth if you put it on dry soil. Even Agrotain isn't fool-proof. If you put it out where you can expect poor nitrogen efficiency, the plants may be improved. It won't do better than best management practices. As a rule, however, Agrotain-treated fields just look better.”