CORNING, Ark. — Michael Ahrent of Corning grew his first 200-bushel per acre rice crop in 2003. It was 20 bushels an acre more than he averaged the year before.

He credited good weather and his participation in the University of Arkansas Rice Research Verification Program with his success. “The Division of Agriculture’s recommendations were very good, and we follow their recommendations on a regular basis. I’d say they’ve paid off.”

The verification program is designed to help growers maximize yields and profits by using the division’s research-based recommendations.

Jeff Branson with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service holds a position funded by the Rice Research and Promotion Board to manage the verification program. His rice verification fields put division recommendations to the test by planting different rice varieties across the state on various soil types and environmental conditions while monitoring fertility needs, weed control and diseases.

Ahrent says, “We followed the DD50 program and grew the Wells variety on 94.3 acres. The 2003 Clay County Rice Research Verification field averaged 201 dry bushels per acre.”

Ahrent says he used a different chemical program and extra fertilizer.

Branson started working with the verification program two years ago. In 2003, the program produced 15 to 20 bushels above the state average. The program continually increases yields, says Chuck Wilson, Extension rice specialist.

“It’s the most successful Extension agronomy program across all the commodity programs that we’ve got,” Wilson says. “The proof is in the yields.”

Roger Gipson, Clay County Extension agent, says the verification program went “extremely well.”

“One reason I wanted to work with Mike on this program was because his field yields with the Wells variety hadn’t been up to where they should have been,” he says. “We made a few adjustments in management, and with some help from Mother Nature, things turned out great.”

In the Clay County verification field, Gipson says, they increased the Wells seeding rate by half a bushel per acre, increased the nitrogen application by 20 units pre-flood, and applied 6.4 ounces per acre of Quadris at late boot for sheath blight control.

Wells has excellent yield potential but is not a great tillering variety. This agronomic trait can decrease field yields, especially when a producer has to deal with a spotty thin stand of this variety.

“Mike had been applying 200 pounds of urea per acre pre-flood for Wells,” he says. “We had him to increase this to 250 pounds per acre in this year’s verification field. The rice really responded to a little extra nitrogen applied pre-flood.

“At mid-season we walked the field and determined the rice still needed another 130 pounds per acre of urea. When it comes to determining total nitrogen needs for rice, you have to treat each field on an individual basis,” Gipson says.

Sheath blight pressure was relatively light during the first two weeks after mid-season nitrogen was applied. They decided to treat the entire field with half a rate of Quadris fungicide to stop sheath blight development and protect yield.

“We had a good rice crop over all,” Gipson says. “Just by tweaking things a little we’ve learned over time how well this works.”

Lamar James is an Extension communications specialist with the University of Arkansas.