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Water-Seeded Hybrids
Arkansas farmer finds a good fit for his overflow land

By Carroll Smith
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Water-seeded rice production typically is associated with south Louisiana and California. However, Cary Wilson, who rents 1,600 acres north and west of Crowley’s Ridge, has found that this approach works better for him than drill seeding. “This land is low land, overflow land,” Wilson says. “The land between my farm and Crowley’s Ridge slopes upward toward the Ridge, so the water comes to us. The two biggest catch ditches for this area also run through our farm, so we have water coming in from every direction. I need a guaranteed way to plant every spring. That’s why I water seed.”

Wilson’s operation, which consists of zero-grade fields, culverts and weir gates to control the water, is the ideal setting for water-seeded rice.

“The No. 1 factor in water seeding is controlling the water,” he says. “You’ve got to be able to get it out on the field and get it off very quickly. I use the weir gates to adjust the water level and can tell just by driving by and seeing where the water is on the boards whether it needs to be raised or lowered. All in all, twenty-five of our 31 fields have weir gates.”

Hybrids suit the system
Another important aspect of Wilson’s water-seeding approach is to use all hybrids. Last year he planted Clearfield XL745, Clearfield XP746 and Clearfield XL729, which all have different characteristics, so he is not “putting all of his eggs in one basket.”

“The low poundage required per acre to plant hybrids appeals to me because soaking the seed prior to flying it on is fairly labor intensive,” he says. “Hypothetically, if I was going to plant 1,000 acres tomorrow, I can soak roughly 400 bushels, compared to soaking 900 bushels to plant 300 acres of non-hybrid rice.”

Wilson built a three-bulk bag sheet metal tank, which has the capacity to soak enough seed to plant 180 acres a day. The seed is soaked for 24 hours, removed and put on a concrete pad for 24 hours, then flown on the next day.

As far as land preparation, the Arkansas farmer cuts his rice, burns the field, disks it a couple of times, then land planes or rolls it. When it’s time to plant the next spring, he uses David Hill’s Flying Service to fly on the seed.

“The pilot can haul a little more than 40 bushels,” Wilson says. “By planting low-poundage hybrid rice, he can fly 60 acres, whereas before he could only fly 12 to 13 acres of non-hybrid rice at a time.”

Wilson’s hybrids of choice
for the 2009 season

Although Cary Wilson has been planting hybrid rice since 2001, for the past two years he has planted 100 percent hybrids on his northeast Arkansas farm.

“Now that RiceTec has expanded its lines, I feel comfortable with all hybrids,” he says. “In 2009, I planted three different hybrids, all with different characteristics, so they don’t all mature at the same time.”

Following is a short description provided by RiceTec of the three hybrids that Wilson planted in his water-seeded system last year:

Clearfield XL745
• Four percent higher yield than best-of-class commercial hybrids in RiceTec research trials
• Improved grain retention
• Standard milling yield
• Best available disease tolerance package

Clearfield XP746
• Disease package equal to that of other Clearfield hybrids
• Milling yields: Good as or better than the current leading hybrids and are expected to be in line with some of the higher-milling varieties
• Expect a yield advantage and standability in the same range as Clearfield XL729
• Easy to thresh and should be harvested as soon as grain moisture reaches acceptable levels to minimize grain loss

Clearfield XL729
• Premier Clearfield hybrid
• Excellent hybrid grain yield
• Best available disease tolerance package
• Newpath and Clearpath tolerant

In-season production practices
Wilson also notes that the hybrid rice root is very aggressive and roots down fast in his water-seeding system.

Because the hybrids take off so quickly, they have a better chance of competing with any weed pressure that may be present, he adds.

In addition to planting the competitive hybrids, his typical chemical weed control program begins with a shot of Newpath and Command, followed by a second shot of Newpath and Rice Beaux.

He also applies 138 units of fertilizer per acre.

“We put out potash and DAP as needed, but not on every acre, every year. We’ve been here long enough now to know where the weaker spots are, plus our yield monitor reinforces it.”

At harvest time, Wilson likes to cut the hybrid rice at 18 to 20 percent moisture, which he believes works best for milling and achieving maximum yield.

“Yields were off somewhat last season due to weather conditions,” he explains, “but, overall, we’ve had great success with hybrid rice in our water-seeding system.”

Contact Carroll Smith at (901) 767-4020 or

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