I do not know how far ahead of normal the rice crop is, but a lot of consultants have commented, “Doc, can you believe how far along this crop is?” A lot of folks found that when they began to check for green ring that plants were past 0.5-inch internode elongation. If looks mean anything, this sure could be a bumper rice crop.
We need record yields to offset some of the reduction in price. We also need the hurricanes to fizzle and allow for a nice smooth harvest and handling of the crop. With acreage up significantly and the crop looking as good as it does, to say there will be a lot of rice to handle is a gross understatement.
For the most part the rice crop is clean. There are fields where the grower and consultant simply could not control barnyardgrass. Those are very disturbing but growers have done a great job with available rice herbicides in most fields.
I hold my breath going into every year wondering if this will be the “blow up year.” We simply need new rice herbicides and new weed control technology. We are rapidly approaching the same situation in rice — by planting most of our acres to Clearfield rice — as we have had with Roundup Ready soybeans. At least in rice, we are not depending on one herbicide like we did so many years in soybeans. That helps a lot, but we still need more diversity. My guess is Clearfield rice acreage will increase again next year.
The primary trouble call I had in rice this year was Newpath drift onto conventional rice. The drift factor alone likely will drive more to plant Clearfield rice out of self defense.
My message all winter is going to be diversity, diversity, diversity. Where growers are rotating rice with soybeans, I feel better about the future of the Clearfield technology than where it is being grown continuously. A Clearfield rice rotation with soybeans beats a Clearfield rice rotation with Clearfield rice. However, a Clearfield rice rotation with soybeans is not as good as a Clearfield rice, soybean, conventional rice rotation.
Before we just throw in the towel and decide we can not grow conventional rice without getting hammered with Newpath, I hope we exhaust all of our options. The university guys are working on a colored flag system to indicate what crops are in which fields. I hope this will help. they can not implement it fast enough.
Better communications and coordination among neighbors on what crops are to be planted where will help. Better communication and coordination among growers and pilots will help. We have some excellent ag pilots and you may think yours is the best, but when you plant a field of conventional rice that is surrounded by either your or your neighbor’s Clearfield rice, you have put a pilot in a no-win situation.
We have to preserve our Clearfield rice technology. The thing about weed resistance to the ALS inhibiting herbicides is when they blow up, they blow up in a couple of years. I thought barnyardgrass would have blown up already with all the Newpath, Beyond, Grasp and Regiment we are throwing at it. Therefore, you can always hope I am wrong.
I am faced with writing from now until next spring on a rather negative topic — weed resistance. If you follow my recommendations as well as those of the university weed scientists (hopefully we have the same message) and you do not yet have a resistance problem, the best case outcome is nothing happens. However, if you continue down a path of too little diversity and things blow up, you will be much harder to help.
If you do not think a technology can blow up, and you do not yet have a Palmer pigweed problem in soybeans, you owe it to yourself to ride across the state and visit with farmers who do. That will help you more than every article I write on the topic!