To help answer their questions, the LSU AgCenter is sponsoring a drill seeding management meeting from 1 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Acadia Parish Extension Center in Crowley.

Most rice farmers in southwestern Louisiana, the state's major rice-growing area, sow their seed by airplane into flooded fields. "Water seeding," as it is known in south Louisiana, helps suppress growth of red rice, a close relative of cultivated rice.

A new line of rice seed, Clearfield, which is tolerant of the herbicide Newpath and was available to farmers for the first time in 2002, promises to give farmers an alternative. (Note: Newpath cannot be used with other rice varieties because it will kill them as well as the red rice weed.)

Using Clearfield frees rice farmers from having to water seed. In fact, the label requires drill seeding, which is a more precise way of planting because it's done on the ground with a tractor.

Less than 10 percent of the rice acreage in South Louisiana this year was planted in Clearfield, said Johnny Saichuk, LSU AgCenter rice specialist, one of the speakers and the chief organizer of the Nov. 15 meeting. Most farmers who used it were pleased with Clearfield and the drill-seeding system, Saichuk said.

Drill seeding offers many advantages over water seeding.

"It's a little cheaper," said Eric Webster, LSU AgCenter weed scientist and another speaker at the Nov. 15 session. "You don't need as much seed, and you get a more uniform, consistent stand."

Saichuk said the recommendation is to use 75-100 pounds of seed per acre for drill seeding, which is quite a bit less than the 100-150 pounds of seed per acre required for water seeding.

Drill seeding also offers more herbicide options.

"There are a wider variety of available herbicides to use in a drill-seeded system than in a water-seeded system," Saichuk said. "This way the farmer can choose the best herbicide for specific weed problems."

For example, there are inexpensive herbicides that can be used in drill-seeded systems to control sprangletop, which is a weed that has gotten out of hand in South Louisiana's water-seeded systems, Webster said.

Drill seeding also helps with control of the No. 1 insect problem in South Louisiana rice - the rice water weevil.

"You can delay flooding when you drill seed," Saichuk said. "This keeps the weevils from multiplying."

Mike Stout, LSU AgCenter entomologist, will be featured on the program talking about insect management in drill-seeded rice.

Because flooding can be delayed, drill seeding uses less water than water seeding. Once the field has been drill seeded, it must be flushed with water to help the plants get started, but the fields don't have to be flooded until the plants are growing.

Saichuk said one farmer had to flush his drill-seeded field three times but still used less water on that field than a nearby field he had water seeded.

One disadvantage of drill seeding is that it's slower than water seeding. Another is that it can't be done in wet conditions.

"If this wet weather continues into spring, we won't be able to drill seed," Saichuk said.

There is only a narrow window when rice can be planted for optimum yields. In southern Louisiana, it's March 15 through April 20, and in northern Louisiana, it's April 5 through May 10.

Most rice in Louisiana's other rice-growing area in the northeastern part of the state is either drill seeded or dry seeded, which means the seed is broadcast over a field and then covered with soil.

"That region of the state doesn't have as significant a problem with red rice," Saichuk said.

Other topics and speakers on the program include economic comparison of drill and water seeding by Mike Salassi, LSU AgCenter economist; fertilization practices, Pat Bollich, LSU AgCenter agronomist; new varieties, Steve Linscombe, LSU AgCenter rice breeder; and drill seeder basics featuring Cody Dicken, a crop systems specialist with John Deere out of Dallas, Texas.

More information about the program may be obtained from Saichuk at (337) 788-7547 or jsaichuk@agcenter.lsu.edu.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com