What is in this article?:
- Glyphosate drift to rice a problem for all of us
- Invisible damage
Editor’s note: the following commentary was adapted from a speech by Mike Wagner, rice farmer and president of the Mississippi Rice Council, at this year’s Mississippi Agricultural Aviation Association meeting.
Damage inflicted by derelict glyphosate during this period is often invisible and not noticed until harvest. Damage is characterized by significantly decreased yields and milling and the rice often exhibits the first signal that it has been hit with drift — kernels shaped like a parrot’s beak.
Damage occurring at this time does not allow for an alternate crop to be replanted. Consequently, the farmer has two nooses around his neck: (1) he is stuck with a crop that will generate lower revenues, and (2) he has already incurred nearly all expenses that are associated with that crop. With anticipated 2011 direct expenses between $450 and $600 per acre and indirect expenses ranging from $200 to $300 per acre — total expenses range from $650 to $900 per acre — one can see that any losses can be staggering. This is a losing proposition for our rice industry, and one that continues to occur. Our alarm is warranted.
This is the main reason the Mississippi Rice Council unanimously passed a resolution in 2010 recommending an annual cutoff date of June 1 for the aerial application of glyphosate to alleviate the possibility that we will be severely impacted by drift without recourse when it is too late. Rice farmers do not like regulation any better than anyone else, but we will take all necessary measures to protect our crops.
Some areas in the Delta suffer more than others, and farmers have reduced or eliminated rice acreage in those areas. Because rice is a high expenditure crop, cutting acreage impacts the local economy, and it significantly impacts aerial applicators.
On my own farm, if wind conditions allow, I normally make two aerial applications of rice herbicides that would cost about $15, and make four flights for fertilizer that would cost near $25 — a total of $40 (this excludes fungicide and insecticide applications). Planted in soybeans or corn, that same land might get at most two aerial trips that will generate $10 to $15. The financial benefit to applicators of increasing rice acreage is obvious.
Yet another reason to curtail applications after June 1 is the mounting evidence that corn, even if it is glyphosate-tolerate, is subject to yield damage if it is hit after it passes the V-8 to V-12 stage — corn from 24 to 48 inches tall.
It isn’t the intention of the Mississippi rice industry to single out aerial applicators as the sole cause for our losses and focus only on remedies regarding that industry. We are well aware that ground applications have and are causing a lot of our woes and we are well aware of the need to educate all applicators.
My own most recent loss was caused by a neighbor who wouldn’t heed my warning about the wind carrying the glyphosate drift from his floppy red boom to my rice field.
The Mississippi rice industry appreciates the meaningful dialogue that has taken place with aerial applicators this past year. 2010 saw a significant drop in the level of glyphosate drift on rice. I think our industries working together helped reduce the incidence of glyphosate drift on rice. Our interests are intricately intertwined, and each of our industry’s survival depends on the other industry’s welfare.
When we plant a crop, we do so only with God’s blessing. It is only through his grace that it grows and multiplies. However, he entrusts each of us to tend its daily cultivation.
The recent rains, flooded conditions, and cool weather have added an unwelcome dimension to our 2011 Delta crop — they will be late and in extreme cases won’t be planted. This means we all must “get it right” the first time as replanting with a “used up” calendar may not be an option. With this in mind, please use added caution when applying herbicides that could harm your or your neighbor’s adjacent crops. Read the label, know the habits of the chemistry you are considering, and always apply common sense before anything else.