The rice weed control season is approaching. “Ford's weed control program” begins with Command. The success of rice weed control is usually determined by how well the Command works (or does not).

The past two years provide an excellent contrast.

The 2005 growing season started dry and remained that way for much of the season. Most of the Command applied was not activated by rainfall and most farmers elected not to flush due to high fuel prices.

At the time, it sounded reasonable to wait longer on a rain or just use a postemergence herbicide instead of the flush. However, it continued dry and drought quickly stressed the emerged grasses. The result was weed control failures and very expensive weed control programs.

In 2006, quite the opposite weather pattern occurred. The growing season started off with widespread rainfall and the pattern continued to flooding time in most areas. The result was excellent activation of pre-emergence Command.

For those who did not apply it pre-emergence, there were excellent opportunities to apply it postemergence with Ricestar HT or a propanil treatment.

In a lot of cases growers made multiple applications of Command and/or Facet in front of timely rain showers. This made for a very easy and less costly grass control season for many growers and consultants.

About the only thing we know for sure going into this season is it will be different. However, let's hope it will be more like last season than the 2005 season.

When the rainfall forecasts are favorable or where the grower is willing to flush, I like the pre-emergence applications of Command. Every grass plant that you can kill before it emerges is one that has no chance to escape.

However, when forecasts are not favorable or when the grower will not flush, waiting to apply the Command in front of a rain is a good program. If grasses have emerged, it can be tank-mixed with a postemergence herbicide.

The program I really like is doing some of both. Apply Command pre-emergence and supplement the program with some additional Command or Facet before a rain or flush.

This year there will be a generic formulation quinclorac (the active ingredient in Facet) on the market called Quinstar. I have not heard prices on either Facet or Quinstar. Typically however, when a generic enters the market, prices come down. If the prices come down enough, it could change the way you look at the pre-emergence program.

It would make it much more economical to apply a pre-emergence tank mix of Command and Facet or Quinstar for one thing. That is an excellent treatment if you get it activated. In the past, due to the cost, I have usually recommended Command alone pre-emergence followed by Facet postemergence if needed.

There are also a lot of different combinations using the two herbicides that could be considered. You could consider a Command treatment pre-emergence followed by a Quinstar or Facet plus Command treatment applied early postemergence.

You could also use a reduced rate of the combination applied both pre-emergence and early postemergence. The weeds, the weather patterns and the willingness of the grower to flush will dictate the best treatment options.

There are a lot of other herbicide options to consider later in the season. I will get to those in the later articles. However, the key to getting the most effective weed control programs at the lowest cost is making effective use of the residual herbicides.

In conventional rice these are Command and quinclorac. In Clearfield rice, Newpath is also a residual herbicide. I will write about Clearfield programs next.