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Specialist Speaking print email

Smallflower Umbrella Sedge on zero-grade

At our annual Missouri Rice Producers Conference in February, we had topics on resistant weeds, rice weed control recommendations for flood, furrow and pivot rice. Fertilizer recommendations, soil testing and the economic application of nitrogen and other fertilizers to rice were presented. Variety selection, special rice, insects, diseases, marketing, water issues, the aquifer and future water laws for southeast Missouri were discussed. Little did we know that all of these topics would come into play in 2012 due to extreme warm and dry weather. However, we mostly missed the mark in our discussions because they were set for “normal” conditions. We confirmed what we already knew: Rice, like most crops, yield very well under severe drought or desert conditions when they have an effective watering system.

We expected Missouri rice acres to be down a bit but, due to warm dry conditions early, it was easy to work ground and plant fast. So, with 177,000 acres planted for a 38 percent increase from 2011 and with a higher yield, Missouri’s production was up 43 percent to 11.9 million cwt. We had less water-seeded than in past years. We worked, leveled and drilled more zero-graded land this year.

Early preemergent weed control was better than normal because of more timely flushings, not for weeds but to germinate rice. This, along with good, uniform stands of rice, made post weed control seem easier than normal. Smallflower Umbrella Sedge is becoming more problematic on zero-grade water-seeded rice.

Ground and air fertilizer applications seemed to have been more timely with better results than years past. As expected with bright sunshine, hot and dry weather diseases were down, and, for the most part, insects were not a serious problem.

Although it was very costly to pump every day, folks on silt or clay soils with good wells and equipment made higher yields than in wet years. We learned that in a full season drought, rice requires no more water than corn. We also confirmed that we can grow 180 bushels of rice on furrow and under pivot on very sandy soils under severe drought conditions when the water is delivered properly.

According to Dr. Michael Aide, professor at Southeast Missouri State University, our long-term water supply for the Bootheel is in excellent shape. The aquifer for SEMO replenishes rapidly.

Chemical spray drift was here again in 2012, but this time it was rice farmers catching the drift instead of causing it. Newpath sprayed on conventional rice happened a couple of times, but the worst problem was Ignite drift onto rice fields. Many growers were trying to kill resistant pigweeds on their turn rows, and, in doing so, they raised their booms too high or got too close to their neighbor’s rice fields. I think our commercial ground and air applicators are doing much better at avoiding drift.

In summary, we had a very abnormal season, but Missouri growers ended the 2012 season with a very good rice crop yieldwise. The quality may be off a bit and our pumping cost was doubled, but otherwise it was normal.


Rice yields improve

Mississippi planted approximately 126,000 acres of rice, which is about 100,000 acres lower than the five-year average. Fewer rice acres in 2012 is attributed to lower rice yields in previous years, lower rice prices and higher prices for other crops such as soybeans and corn.

With the fewer acres in 2012 and dry planting conditions at the end of March, planting progress was able to move along at a record pace. Mississippi had 60 percent of the rice crop planted by April 15, 2012, and 95 percent planted by April 29, 2012.

Two Clearfield varieties and two Clearfield hybrids accounted for approximately 65 percent of the total rice acreage. Clearfield XL745 and Clearfield XL729 were planted on 32 and 11 percent of the acreage respectively, while CL151 and CL111 each were planted on 11 percent of the acreage respectively. Cocodrie continued to be a favorite among conventional varieties and accounted for 11 percent of the acreage, whereas the conventional hybrids XL723 and XL753 were planted to eight and six percent of the acreage. Rex, the newly released rice variety, was planted on about six percent of the acreage. The remaining four percent was planted primarily to CL152, Sabine, Hidalgo, XP744 and Clearfield XP4534.

Adequate rainfall was received in the early part of the growing season. This is not only advantageous for crop growth and development early on, but it also helps keep preemergence herbicides active in the soil and keeps weeds actively growing for optimum herbicide performance. Some of the later planted rice was flushed due to drier conditions becoming dominant later in the season.

With most of the summer becoming dry with low humidity, disease pressure was kept at a manageable level. Insect pressure was also relatively light throughout the growing season. With most of the rice planted receiving an insecticide seed treatment, rice water weevils have become less of a problem in rice. Rice stinkbug numbers were lower than in 2011; however, some of the acres did receive an insecticide application for rice stinkbug control.

The rice harvest season began the last couple of days in July. Early planting, coupled with favorable growing conditions in 2012, enabled rice producers to harvest earlier than normal. More than 80 percent of Mississippi’s rice crop was harvested by Sept. 16, which is about 30 percent above the five-year average. On average, rice yields were improved over the last two years. Mississippi rice yields for 2012 are currently estimated at 158 bu/A – two bushels per acre below the state record set in 2007.


Disease surprises

In looking over December Specialists Speaking articles from the previous few years, I discovered a paragraph written in 2009 that could have been used to describe 2012. In 2009, the best planting date for rice in south Louisiana was between March 1 and March 15. And, just as in 2009, most farmers did not want to plant prior to March 8 because that would disqualify them for the re-plant provisions of crop insurance. Then it started raining just enough to stop farmers from dry seeding, especially drill seeding. Eventually, some flooded their fields and water-seeded them. Records from our AgCenter surveys show 45 percent waterseeded acres in 2009, 32 percent and 33 percent in 2010 and 2011 respectively, and 44 percent in 2012.

2012 may be remembered as a year of opportunity for plant pathologists. We started the year with the knowledge that a race or biotype of Rhizoctonia solani, the fungus that causes sheath blight, which is resistant to the strobilurin fungicides, had been confirmed. LSU AgCenter pathologists working with BASF were able to obtain a Section 18 Emergency Use label for Sercadis fungicide in time for the use season. Because Sercadis is derived from different fungicide chemistry, the resistant fungus could be managed. Some growers complained that it did not work as well as Quadris or Gem, the strobilurin fungicides that had been so effective to that point. This was already well documented through research, so it was not a surprise. However, some control is a lot better than none. There may be a few label changes for the 2013 season to improve its efficacy.

In May, we got our next disease surprise when leaf blast was reported in commercial fields of southwest Louisiana and on the Rice Research Station in Crowley. The first field I saw with the problem was a seed rice field planted to CL261. Within a few days, we were getting calls of the disease in everything from Bengal to Wells on the station and most often CL151 in grower fields. It was documented in CL111, CL151, CL152, CL162, CL181, CL261, Bengal, Caffey, Cypress, Jupiter, Rex, Wells and probably some I missed. The difference in response to the disease gave plant pathologist Dr. Don Groth the opportunity of a lifetime to rate commercial varieties and experimental lines for their susceptibility. Plant breeders Dr. Steve Linscombe and Dr. Xueyan Sha took advantage of the situation to discard susceptible lines from their programs. Dr. Linscombe said it was the worst blast he had seen in his career; I agree.

The first question asked of us was, “Why was blast so bad this year?” Most researchers believe the problem started with the very mild winter of 2011-12. We had no real killing freeze and few light freezes. As a consequence, rice plants survived in crawfish ponds and neglected rice fields harvested in 2011. When spring arrived, there were fields of rice that served as sources of inoculum. The fungus grew and reproduced much earlier than in most years. By the time the crop was planted, the pathogen was already well established and waiting for more host plants. Heavy inoculum, a large acreage of susceptible varieties and the right weather set up the epidemic.

The critical nature of fungicide application timing and fungicide selection were other important lessons learned in 2012. This was especially true where growers used Sercadis to combat resistant sheath blight and had to add in a strobilurin for blast control. Where the smuts and/or Cercospora were of concern, a third ingredient, propiconazole, had to be added to the mix. This was awfully expensive at a time when prices were not very encouraging. Trying to apply fungicide one time proved that an application at the right time for sheath blight was too early for blast, or, if it was applied correctly to manage blast, it was too late for sheath blight. Unless two or more applications are made, there will always be some compromise in disease control because the fungi attack at different times.

At least it was a fairly light year in terms of insect pressure, and, according to Dr. Eric Webster, one of the best years for weed control.


Ups and downs

This past season was a year of ups and downs for Arkansas rice farmers. The rice crop was planted at a record pace, with over 50 percent of rice in the ground by April 1. Temperatures and moisture were good during the early part of the season, but unfortunately kept climbing, resulting in extremely high temperatures during late June and throughout July. Most were able to manage the heat with proper water management and were encouraged as temperatures declined into August. Harvest began very successfully in late July and August with high yields and solid milling quality. Unfortunately, late August and September brought rain and wind, resulting in harvest delays, the repeated wetting and drying of harvest-ready rice and many acres of downed rice. While most yields remained high, quality began a rapid decline due to adverse conditions resulting from Hurricane Isaac and subsequent thunderstorms.

Reports of large differences in milling quality between hybrids and conventional varieties have been somewhat exaggerated. No cultivar was immune to the variation in milling caused by erratic environmental conditions. On average, no more than a few points separated hybrids and conventionals for head rice yield. While high nighttime air temperatures during critical growth stages certainly played a role in setting the maximum milling quality we could expect, adverse weather conditions late in the season brought us down from expectations set during early harvest. The preservation of milling quality in both hybrids and conventionals is dependent upon timely harvest. Harvesting rice too early (high moisture, >24 percent) or too late (low moisture, <16 percent) often results in a significant loss of milling quality.

Insect and disease pressure across the state was unusually low this season. However, hot and dry conditions are typically not conducive to disease pressure, and insect populations become extremely unpredictable during unusual years such as this one.

Clearfield crop acreage has grown each year since its introduction but declined slightly in 2012. Newpath carryover was an issue of increased concern this year. Unexpected carryover was observed in fields where appropriate herbicide rates and rotation interval were followed. Newpath drift onto non-Clearfield cultivars was also a problem. According to Dr. Bob Scott, Extension weed scientist, 2012 “has been an exceptional year for crop injury.”

I am pleased to report that a new state record average yield of 162 bu/A was achieved in 2012. Unfortunately, problems with grain quality, herbicide carryover/drift, sensationalized reports concerning arsenic in rice and unfortunate weather conditions at harvest dampened what could have been a truly banner year for Arkansas rice production. May we live in less interesting times in 2013.

Overall, the 2012 California rice-growing season was another one of those that makes you wonder how we define what a “normal” season is. The only thing consistent about growing conditions in the last several years has been the inconsistency.

This inconsistency challenges and frustrates farmers when making management decisions. In 2012, California rice planting was delayed by a mild, wet spring with significant showers in the latter part of March and the first half of April that delayed ground preparation. Much of our rice was planted in the latter half of May with some plantings dragging into June.

Fairly warm May temperatures resulted in good stand establishment, while temperatures during the remainder of the season were reminiscent of a roller coaster ride; alternating between stretches of significantly higher and significantly lower than average temperatures.

Of particular interest was a 10-day period in early-to-mid August when temperatures exceeded 100 degrees F and even approached 110 degrees F on a couple of occasions.

Very early planted rice that was flowering during this period may have experienced significant heat induced blanking associated with poor pollination. On a positive note, nighttime temperatures stayed warm enough during the sensitive pollen meiosis stage to prevent cold temperature blanking issues similar to those we encountered in 2010.

To compound the issues associated with late-planted rice and temperature extremes, harvest appeared to be delayed or stretched out for many growers. In many cases, grain moisture contents reached about 25 percent where they stalled, and were then followed by a very leisurely decrease to harvestable moisture content. These conditions led to delayed harvests confounded by intermittent rains, some locally heavy, that led to more delays and may result in some lower quality rice once appraisals are complete.

As of the first week of November, between five to 10 percent of the California rice crop was still to be harvested. The Oct. 1 USDA NASS projections for California rice indicated an estimated 563,000 acres of rice harvested with an estimated statewide yield of 8,450 lbs/A for a 100 lbs/A increase over 2011.

Based upon observations and discussions with growers, the NASS estimates seem a bit high, and I expect the final statewide yield to be closer to 8,000 lbs/A with good milling quality for the majority of California rice.


What is normal?

Overall, the 2012 California rice-growing season was another one of those that makes you wonder how we define what a “normal” season is. The only thing consistent about growing conditions in the last several years has been the inconsistency.

This inconsistency challenges and frustrates farmers when making management decisions. In 2012, California rice planting was delayed by a mild, wet spring with significant showers in the latter part of March and the first half of April that delayed ground preparation. Much of our rice was planted in the latter half of May with some plantings dragging into June.

Fairly warm May temperatures resulted in good stand establishment, while temperatures during the remainder of the season were reminiscent of a roller coaster ride; alternating between stretches of significantly higher and significantly lower than average temperatures. Of particular interest was a 10-day period in early-to-mid August when temperatures exceeded 100 degrees F and even approached 110 degrees F on a couple of occasions.

Very early planted rice that was flowering during this period may have experienced significant heat induced blanking associated with poor pollination. On a positive note, nighttime temperatures stayed warm enough during the sensitive pollen meiosis stage to prevent cold temperature blanking issues similar to those we encountered
in 2010.

To compound the issues associated with late-planted rice and temperature extremes, harvest appeared to be delayed or stretched out for many growers.

In many cases, grain moisture contents reached about 25 percent where they stalled, and were then followed by a very leisurely decrease to harvestable moisture content. These conditions led to delayed harvests confounded by intermittent rains, some locally heavy, that led to more delays and may result in some lower quality rice once appraisals are complete.

As of the first week of November, between five to 10 percent of the California rice crop was still to be harvested. The Oct. 1 USDA NASS projections for California rice indicated an estimated 563,000 acres of rice harvested with an estimated statewide yield of 8,450
lbs/A for a 100 lbs/A increase over 2011.

Based upon observations and discussions with growers, the NASS estimates seem a bit high, and I expect the final statewide yield to be closer to 8,000 lbs/A with good milling quality for the majority of California rice.


Exceptional yields and quality in 2012

The main topic of Texas rice production in 2012 is WATER. As you probably know, Texas rice acreage in 2012 was about 50,000 less than in 2011, which was due to the Lower Colorado River Authority’s decision to not release water for agricultural purposes. The drought during 2011 lowered reservoir water levels below the threshold for release to farmers who use surface water from the Colorado River. So far, the fall of 2012 has been very dry, which is not good. We need fall and winter precipitation to fill the lakes northwest of Austin to allow release of water for our rice crop in 2013. The counties affected – Colorado, Wharton and Matagorda – are located in the heart of Texas rice production south and west of Houston.

On a more positive note, in general, 2012 rice yields and quality in Texas are exceptional. However, I have heard of higher than expected levels of peck. Based on the Texas Rice Crop Survey, main crop yields averaged over 7,500 lbs/A, which is much better than last year. Complete ratoon crop yield data are not yet available. Some crop consultants are reporting combined main and ratoon crop yields around 100 barrels per acre, which is equivalent to about 16,000 lbs/A wet weight! These exceptionally high yields are being produced by hybrid rice varieties.

Blast was a potential problem in 2012. This disease was first diagnosed by Dr. Shane Zhou in fields of CL261 near Nome, Texas, in Jefferson County. Fortunately, blast did not reach epidemic proportions in Texas, but we need to be alert for this disease in 2013. I visited with Dr. Johnny Saichuk recently, and he told me blast was severe in Louisiana in 2012.

Rice water weevil populations were above normal in 2012, but we have excellent pest management tools to control these root-feeding pests. We have three seed treatments – CruiserMaxx Rice, Dermacor X-100 and NipsIt INSIDE – to control rice water weevil in 2013. In 2012, NipsIt INSIDE was labeled through an Experimental Use Permit, which limited use to no more than 10,000 acres of rice in Texas. However, in 2013, NipsIt INSIDE will have no acreage limitation under a full federal Section 3 registration. The active ingredient in NipsIt INSIDE is clothianidin, which has been implicated in honeybee kills in soybean and corn fields in the Midwest. So, after registering NipsIt INSIDE and Belay, which also contains clothianidin as the active ingredient on rice, USEPA then had to defend the registration.

Thanks to Steve Hensley with USA Rice Federation for alerting rice entomologists about this situation. I wrote a letter in support of the rice registration, and I think my colleagues in other Southern rice-producing states did the same. I thank USEPA, in particular Lois Rossi and Meredith Laws, for supporting a rice registration. They and their staff evaluated the data and arrived at a rational, science-based decision to support registration.

We must be careful when we apply chemicals to our rice. Remember, READ and FOLLOW the LABEL INFORMATION and INSTRUCTIONS! I can’t stress this enough. Labels are legal documents and must be adhered to strictly. The U.S. rice industry has had direct, painful experiences when chemicals were applied not in accordance with label instructions. We have an array of excellent pest management tools that we do not want to lose.

I mentioned Belay in the above discussion, and I want to say a few more words about this insecticide. Belay also has a full federal Section 3 label for use in 2013 in the Southern rice-producing states. Belay is applied as a spray from before to about 10 days after flood. Control is aimed at rice water weevil and seedling pests of rice, such as aphids and thrips.

Another issue for Texas rice in 2012, as well as other rice-producing states, was arsenic. I’m not going to talk about this now because I am not very familiar with this issue, but I do know the media put out some information that was very preliminary and incomplete. I plan to do some more homework on arsenic and rice, but in the meantime, I am sure some of my colleagues have a much better grasp of this topic, so I will defer to them.

Stalk borers were problematic in Texas in 2012, but again, we have some good pest management tools for these pests. Currently, my project is involved in trying to develop treatment thresholds for stalk borers. The Mexican rice borer, which was introduced into Texas from Mexico in the 1980s, continues to spread north and west. In 2012, moths were collected in new locations in Louisiana.

Also, I regret losing Dr. Natalie Hummel, who was my Extension counterpart with the LSU AgCenter. Natalie did a lot of work with stalk borers and other pests of Louisiana rice and is now working in North Carolina employed by an agrichemical company – best of luck to Natalie, and I hope LSU AgCenter hires her replacement soon!

Finally, the photo I selected for this article is of the Beaumont Center display at the Texas Rice Festival held in Winnie during the first week of October. This festival celebrates the rice harvest and is well-attended and maintains a family atmosphere. Thanks to Mike Doguet, US Rice Producers Association and Uncle Ben’s for providing give-a-ways and rice industry information.

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