Many changes have occurred in Rusty Hestir’s 28-year career as a rice consultant. When he started out in 1981, he never imagined the technological advances and other innovations that have driven the rice farming industry to the high production level where it is today.
“The way we farm rice has changed dramatically over the past three decades,” says Hestir, who lives in DeWitt, Ark.
“We have so many more tools to use, such as new herbicides and insecticides, and better performing varieties,” he adds. “Our practices have also changed; we have done things like transition from contoured fields to zero grade fields. What we are doing today just didn’t seem possible 28 years ago. Additionally, the consulting business has changed totally. Arkansas is blessed with many great, conscientious consultants, and I can’t say enough for my colleagues. They are all fantastic people who work tirelessly for the farmer. We are hustling on a daily basis to make sure that every penny that farmers have invested in their operation is going in the right direction.”
Weed control advances
Hestir says that rice weed control has gone through many changes during his career. In his early years as a consultant, he and his growers mainly relied on contact herbicides. Now they can choose residuals and contact herbicides, as well as products that specifically target certain weed species.
“Products such as LockDown for curly indigo or Permit for nutsedge infestation are very efficient,” he says. “Today, we are fortunate to have specialized products like these. The large number of these and other products for controlling weeds and grasses out there does make weed control a little complicated sometimes, but at least you have several different weapons to clean up your farm economically and efficiently.
“Additionally, the rice herbicide program has changed dramatically with Clearfield rice, which provides a great system for controlling red rice and other weeds. Clearfield has enabled us to stay in the rice business. A few years back before Clearfield, we were getting to where red rice was the main limiting factor in a lot of these rice fields. If it wasn’t for the Clearfield technology, many of these fields simply wouldn’t be farmed because of the heavy red rice pressure.”
Hestir likes to attack weeds and grasses in two ways. His rice weed herbicide program includes hitting them once with a contact herbicide and then coming back with a tankmix of a contact and a residual herbicide. New tools such as LockDown biological herbicide also fit into Hestir’s rice weed control program. He started using LockDown, manufactured by Natural Industries, again this year and was very pleased with how well it worked.
“I used it years ago when it was called Collego,” he says. The active ingredient in LockDown was sold under the name Collego by the Upjohn Company in the ’80s and ’90s. It is a post-emergent tool for control of northern jointvetch, also known as curly indigo.
“In this day and age, we are looking at multiple crops and many times you get hemmed in with what you can use to control weeds such as curly indigo,” Hestir continues. “You are limited to what you can use because of drift concerns on adjacent crops. LockDown is perfect because it is basically harmless to any neighboring crops. It is host specific and only targets curly indigo. It does not harm any other plant life, including rice or nearby crops, such as soybeans and corn. It provides an option for growers who prefer not use a mid-season herbicide that could cause crop injury if timing is not made properly.
“LockDown can be applied as an early application just prior to flooding along with other herbicides. It also can be applied mid- and late season when most herbicides cannot be sprayed.”
Adapts to change
Hestir knows that with all of today’s different specialized herbicides, new varieties and zero-grade fields, everything is constantly changing and so consultants and growers must change, too. “I never thought there would be as much water seeded or continuous rice as there is today,” he says.
“It used to be that you farmed rice one year out of three. But today it is a mixed bag. Each year you go into a different system there are new problems that arise that you must address. Once you get over one hurdle there is always another hurdle to clear.
“You have to examine each farm for its strong points and weaknesses. You try to pinpoint the weaknesses and improve on those while taking advantage of all the strong points from the grower and his farm. If we can handle his weed control program, fertility programs and other aspects of his production program, then he has more time to take care of the big picture.”
Natural Industries contributed information for this article.