Dennis Robison, who farms in the Missouri Bootheel, is
typically in a 50/50 rotation between rice and soybeans
on 2,600 acres. For the most part, this rotation works
well for him with the exception of a 45-acre field that has
sandy, loamy soil in the flats and extremely sandy soil on the side of
In this field, he rotated soybeans and wheat. However, he began to
notice a pretty severe cyst nematode buildup in the beans and weed
issues and disease problems in the wheat. He wanted to be able to plant
rice in this field, but flooded rice just wouldn’t work on a “sand
hill.” The rest of his fields are graded and leveled.
“I read where the Delta Center was experimenting with pivot rice,
and I had a pivot, so I got some information from them, then talked
over the possibility with my consultant, Mark Cummings, from Corning,
Ark.,” Robison says. “We tried to think of problems that we
might run into, but we couldn’t come up with any, so, in 2010, we
decided to give pivot rice a try.”
The Missouri farmer had his pivot equipped with a GPS Ready Valley
Pro2 control panel, which, according to Valley, provides the
highest level of control and monitoring, both in the field and remotely.
This panel can utilize the most advanced functions of Tracker
SP and the BaseStation2. These functions allow a farmer to control and monitor the pivot from a desktop computer without actually
standing in front of the pivot in the field.
Pivot Uses Less Water
When it came time to plant, Robison chose CLEARFIELD XL729
for the 45-acre field. He said Valley’s Circle of Rice program recommended
that he had to be able to put out at least one-third of an inch
of water in 24 hours.
“This field probably takes a little more than that, but I have the capability
to put out one-half inch of water on this ground in 13 hours,”
Robison says. “I always watered the field at night in 2010 because the
water doesn’t blow around as much, and it was so hot that year. In the
end, however, it yielded 186 bushels per acre dry, and the milling was
“Although we didn’t know for sure, we speculated that pumping
cold water on the rice at night might have helped the milling quality,”
he adds. “But this is just a guess on our part. Water wasn’t an
issue. We kept the field clean and adjusted our fertilizer program a bit.
Everything worked fine. Growing rice on this field helped break the
cyst nematode cycle, and, in 2011, when I came back with beans
here, it added about 10 bushels per acre to my soybean yield.
“Also, glyphosate-resistant pigweeds were getting to be a problem,
and the herbicides that I apply on rice will kill the pigweeds,” Robison
says. “That helped a lot, plus I planted LibertyLink beans in
2011 to keep them cleaned out. At some point, I will rotate back to
Roundup Ready beans to keep changing up the herbicide chemistries.”
Robison also injected about 28 percent liquid nitrogen through
the pivot early in the season and again toward the end of the season.
In 2012 on the 45-acre field, Robison planted CLEARFIELD XL
745 because it seems to have better grain retention, he says.
To gauge the amount of water used, Robison installed flow meters
on both the pivot-irrigated field and the flooded field. In the end,
the pivot rice yielded 172.09 bushels per acre compared to his flooded
rice, which yielded 172.68 bushels per acre. However, the pivot rice
used 40 percent less water.
Disease Package Is Key
An important consideration related to growing pivot-irrigated rice
is variety selection, Robison says.
“We’ve been sticking with the hybrids because they have the best
disease package,” he explains. “Disease can be elevated in a pivot rice
situation. However, it’s usually a good idea to budget for at least
one application of Quadris or Headline, just in case.”
Robison said he made one fungicide application in 2010 primarily
as a preventative against blast, which didn’t show up that year. In
2012, they continued to scout for blast, but didn’t see any, so he did
not apply a fungicide last year.
“2012 was very dry, so I think that might have decreased the disease
pressure to a certain extent,” he says. “However, just to be safe,
you should count on budgeting for at least one fungicide application
because, in most cases, blast does show up somewhere.”
The advantages of growing rice
under a pivot depend on whether a
producer is suffering from a disadvantage.
For example, if a farmer is
running out of water in the area, pivot
irrigation can help him stay in the rice
Also, if a producer usually grows
corn, wheat and soybeans and wants to
add another crop to the rotation on a
field or fields not typically suited to
flooded rice, then pivot-irrigated rice
may be an option.
Adding rice to the rotation provides
the opportunity to introduce new
chemistry into the mix.
Another scenario might be a rice
farmer with a farm that is ungraded
and the cost of leveling is out of reach,
or, if the farm has hills that are too big
to grade, then that farmer can compare
those costs to the cost of a pivot.
The pivot might be a way to get the
operation into irrigated rice production
faster and cheaper.
In the end, the decision to utilize
pivot-irrigated rice production,
whether on one field, several fields or
an entire farm, depends on the producer’s
Contact Carroll Smith at (901) 767-4020 or firstname.lastname@example.org.