In my last column, I wrote about some of the shattering issues associated the Clearfield hybrids, especially last year. I have seen a lot of hypothetical numbers circulated on just how much volunteering could occur in the fields this year if rice is planted back. Those numbers are just that — hypothetical.

However, in fields where high shattering rates occurred, it would take only a small percentage volunteering back to result in a normal seeding rate of off-types in the field.

It is the general consensus, among the rice specialists and weed scientists that I know, that rice should not be planted back in fields where shattering occurred in 2008. (Of course, it is my recommendation that Clearfield rice not be planted behind Clearfield rice anyway.)

Nobody knows just how much rice will volunteer back. From experience, we know that some will. Those plants that volunteer will be a segregating population of rice plants that will compete with the good plants and thus act as weeds.

If you rotate the fields to a crop such as soybeans, I would also suggest tilling and smoothing the fields early in the spring to encourage as many of the seed to germinate as possible. In addition, make every effort to get 100 percent control in the crop.

As I stated in the last article, we are sailing off into uncharted waters on the volunteer issue. I do not know for sure how big of an issue this will turn out to be, and I don’t know anyone else who does. The disturbing part is I don’t know anyone who can assure us that it will not be a problem.

A huge question: Will the seed all germinate the following year, or will some of them be dormant and germinate over several years? Another question: What percentage of the volunteer plants will make seed and thus have the potential to repopulate and reproduce the following year or years?

I do not know the answers to these questions, but I am concerned that they are not good. I am concerned that we could be creating a Clearfield weedy off-type (or off-types) that could come back to haunt us. It will be ironic if the very technology developed to control a weedy off-type, red rice, winds up creating another weedy off-type without the outcrossing we worry about so much even having to occur.

Several company reps have asked me, “How can we have a better stewardship program for Clearfield rice?” My answer: “When the sales reps can look a farmer in the eye and encourage him to use a different technology in a field that had Clearfield rice in it the year before.”

In my career, I have heard a lot of solutions offered for resistance management. However, not once have I heard, “You have used my product too much in recent years, I suggest you use something else this year.” There is no criticism here for any individual grower or company rep, but we sure need the Clearfield technology to last longer than it is going to last if we keep going in the direction we are headed.

Several people who tried my old Riceland cell phone number in recent weeks got a disconnected message. They have asked if my consulting arrangement with Riceland had changed. The arrangement has not changed, and I am looking forward to the 2009 crop.

The Riceland phone needed replacing. The coverage was not good in some of the areas where I work, and managing two phones was often a pain. As a solution, we pulled the plug on the Riceland phone and worked out an arrangement for me to use my personal phone for everything. The number is (501) 681-3413. You will not be “bothering me” on my personal phone or running up my personal bill. That number is now for business as well as personal and is there for your use.

e-mail: ford@weedconsultants.com