Terry Gray has found the perfect place for Clearfield rice — non zero-graded, bottomland that's prone to flooding. But the Delaplaine, Ark., rice producer stresses that his opportunities for the herbicide-tolerant lines are just beginning.

This year, Gray will produce about 1,250 acres of rice, including Wells, Bengal, RicTec hybrids XL6 and XL8 and Clearfield CL 121 and CL 141. The Clearfield rice lines, now available for commercial planting, are tolerant to the imidazolinone herbicide, Newpath.

“I have three choices for the bottom ground — Wells, Clearfield or soybeans,” Gray said, “With soybeans, I can lose big if it floods. With Wells, I can get better yield than with Clearfield, but I'm probably going to create more of a red rice problem (in part because it's not zero-graded). Clearfield is not going to yield as much, but the red rice is never going to blow up on me.”

Gray stressed that red rice is not a severe problem on the bottom ground field. “Clearfield would yield 140 to 160 bushels, whether you're in a clean field or a red rice-infested field. If you planted a conventional variety in a heavily-infested field, you'd be lucky to harvest 110 to 120 bushels.”

Controlling red rice, says Gray, “is the key to my long-term success. I can work around just about anything except a lot of red rice.”

After harvest, Gray will burn stubble on his water-seeded rice, zero-grade fields and flood up. On other ground, Gray may till to shape up ruts. “But everything that we do is working away from tillage. We have some ground we haven't worked in seven years. My combine has floatation tires. We have big tires on our buggies, and we have track tractors.”

In the spring, Gray will check water-seeded rice fields to see if they need working, but usually the action of water during the fall and winter smoothes out most ruts.

“Sprangletop is a big problem here. Sometimes, I need to drain the water off those fields and burn it down. But most of the time, I'll leave it on and start sowing rice in the middle April.”

Gray will burndown drill-seeded rice fields and plant, usually the last week in March. Because of the early start, “we use a lot of seed treatment — Apron, Release, Vitavax and zinc — on drill-seeded rice.”

Gray, who raised Clearfield varieties for seed production last year, has two options on his first Newpath treatment this year — either a preplant incorporated or delayed pre-emergence application at a 4-ounce rate.

“Whether you preplant incorporate or delay pre-emerge, I advise you to plant the Clearfield rice, survey the levees, pull them and put in spills. When you get up the next day, if it hasn't rained, start to flush to get the chemical activated to head off red rice and any other grass.”

In 2001, Newpath “did a great job on the broadleaf signalgrass and barnyardgrass. I was concerned that the sprangletop was coming through.”

Gray thought he might get the sprangletop with a post application of Newpath, also labeled at a 4-ounce rate. “We didn't get it to my satisfaction. We came back and cleaned it up with Ricestar.

“Another key is to make sure that you burndown with Roundup or Touchdown. Don't think Newpath is going to be a burndown and a delayed pre at the same time.”

The post application of Newpath will go out at two- to three-leaf grass. “And if it doesn't rain within two or three days after that, I'll flush.”

Gray strongly recommends using a surfactant with Newpath on the post-emergent application. “I forgot to do it on some of my Clearfield, and I didn't get good control.”

Gray may tank-mix Facet or propanil with the Newpath post application, depending on the weeds present. “If there's any doubt, I'll add Facet at 0.2 pound. Last year, we didn't. Newpath is a great product, but it's not a standalone product. There are so many weeds in rice that can get you.”

After the last post application of Newpath, raising Clearfield rice is no different from conventional rice. “One thing about Newpath is that it keeps working. Water keeps it activated. Your weed control really does improve. We had some barnyardgrass that the first burndown didn't get. It grew, then it started twisting and never amounted to anything.”

Gray takes the threat of outcrossing (creating an imi-resistant red rice plant) very seriously. “The companies (Horizon Ag and BASF) and the Extension Service are not exaggerating. If they say there could be an outcrossing, they are serious. Farmers are going to have to use their heads and manage it correctly.”

Grower certification meetings, required to purchase Clearfield rice, “are short, concise and to the point,” Gray said.

Gray, also a seed dealer, adds that Horizon's use of cyberspace has helped the company keep the costs of Clearfield down. “Horizon has a good Website and realizes that the Internet is a good way to get information out.

“The site has disease ratings, yield data, and a summary of how to raise the product.”

Higher yields for Clearfield will come in time, Gray says. “There shouldn't be any yield drag, per se, in the herbicide-resistant technology. It's the parentage. It's going to take some time to bump the yields.”

Average rice yields across the farm for Gray were 168 bushels, dry, without much difference between medium-grain and long-grain varieties. Clearfield varieties yielded around 161 bushels (a fungicide was needed to attain that level) and his hybrids averaged between 195 and 200 bushels.

Quality and milling yield of the Clearfield varieties is comparable to most other varieties, according to Gray.


e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com.