Johnny Wheetley, who has been an independent crop consultant specializing in rice production since 1988, says walking rice fields consistently is critical to weed control.
“We make sure that we stay in the fields,” says the Arkansas consultant, who lives in Judsonia. “My farmers are very involved with their farming practices and paperwork that takes a lot of their time, and when they have equipment problems, they have to fix them immediately, which tends to push back looking at the field.”
Don’t miss the proper window
Because the farmers are often tied up, many consultants like Wheetley dedicate their time to go out and walk through the fields to detect any potential problems.
“Most of the herbicides and fertilizer that we have now require close timing, and if you’re not in the field, you could easily wind up missing the proper application window. For example, if you give grass a few extra days, it will quickly grow too large, and then you’re in a salvage treatment situation that you never cure; you lose yield, and you fight it the rest of the season.”
‘Worst weed problem in rice’
This Arkansas consultant says, without a doubt, barnyardgrass is his worst weed problem in rice. In 1990, the late Danny Castle and Wheetley sent the original propanil-resistant barnyardgrass through Poinsett county agent Alva Ray Siler to Dr. Roy Smith, the former weed specialist at the Rice Experiment Research in Stuttgart.
“Propanil-resistant barnyardgrass popped up everywhere after that,” Wheetley says. “Today, our first weed control step is applying Command on all of our rice fields. Then we follow with Newpath in the Clearfield rice system. We’ve also used RiceStar and Clincher for escapes.
“Although propanil is not used near as much as it once was, we do use quite a bit of Duet that has propanil in it mainly for broadleaves and yellow nutsedge,” he adds. “We rotate our chemistry for optimum control and to manage resistance.”
In addition to fighting barnyardgrass, Wheetley battles northern jointvetch, a weed also commonly known as curly indigo. A unique weed control tool that he often uses for indigo is LockDown biological herbicide.
“We used the product when it was called Collego, and we have used it as Lockdown,” he says. “Lockdown works well on controlling indigo, and it seems to work a little faster than Collego did.”
The biological herbicide is now sold in a dried granular formulation and works efficiently with Clearfield rice systems, hybrid rice fields and regular rice fields.
“You have several materials to use on indigo, but LockDown is the best one to use mid- to late season for crop safety reasons,” Wheetley says. “LockDown is host-specific and only targets northern jointvetch. Therefore, it does not harm any other plant life, including rice or nearby crops, such as soybeans, cotton and corn.
“We normally apply LockDown by itself or with Blazer to pick up some coffeebean,” he adds. “We use it on Clearfield and regular rice where we have indigo escapes. I know it can now be used early, but we haven’t tried it that way yet.”
For early northern jointvetch control this season, growers can use LockDown biological herbicide in a pre-flood application. Studies have shown that the pre-flood application works very well and that LockDown can be tank mixed with herbicides, including Clearpath, Blazer and Grasp. It also can be applied mid- and late season when most herbicides cannot be sprayed.
Medium grain rice
Last year, Wheetley’s growers planted a little bit of Wells and Frances, and about 40 percent medium grain, which was mostly Jupiter with a little Neptune, and 25 percent hybrids and about 20 percent CL151, resulting in about 45 percent of his growers’ rice acreage being planted to Clearfield rice.
“I work western Poinsett County, which has been the traditional medium grain area in Arkansas,” he adds. “When I started independent consulting in the late ’80s, we planted up to 70 percent medium grain rice. Over the years, the medium grain market has declined; a couple of years ago, I was down to as low as 20 percent medium grain.”
Prior to becoming an independent crop consultant, Wheetley was an Extension Service county agent in Poinsett County from 1984 to 1988. Then he formed Wheetley Agri Management, which provides complete consulting services, ranging from soil sampling through harvest. “I start with soil samples, and then I help plan the coming season with my growers and check the crop at least weekly during the season,” he says. “I’m mostly rice, have a little wheat and pick up a few soybeans late in the year.”
Information for this article was provided by Natural Industries, Inc.