Adjusting Rice Fertility Programs ‘Makes A Big Difference’

To help manage his rice crop, from winter planning sessions all the way through the season, Rehermann depends on the advice of Eric Benzel, a PCA with Big Valley Ag Services in Gridley.

“The members of the family from which Eric comes are long time friends of my family,” Rehermann says. “Right after World War II, my father worked for Eric’s great-grandfather. They would harvest plots of rice and small grains for farmers who didn’t have their own combines. Custom harvesting, it would be called today. I make this point to illustrate that we are all ‘old time Live Oak people.’

“Eric keeps impeccable notes on each field – what we did on what day and the amount
of materials that were applied. His efforts make it much easier for me because there are a lot of details involved in running a rice operation.”

Feature Image4 RF Jan2015

Eric Benzel, right, is a PCA with Big Valley Ag Services in Gridley, who works with Rehermann throughout the season.

Rehermann points out that when he began farming in the early 1970s, rice nutrition programs weren’t as good as they are now. Benzel, who studied under Extension rice agronomist Cass Mutters, works with Rehermann to recap the previous season and put a plan together going forward for practices such as fertility programs, weed control and water management. In particular, Benzel adjusted Rehermann’s fertility program to balance nutrition across the fields and offset the effects of incorporating straw.

“Incorporating straw does a couple of things that affect the fertility program,” he says. “First, it keeps moisture in the ground a lot longer, so it’s more difficult to dry out the field once we open it up. Also, there may be certain places in the field where we didn’t get the straw incorporated adequately, which may show up later as short, green spots where a late nitrogen release occurred.

“The good thing about working with Frank, who has been on these properties for so long, is that he knows the dirt and where the cuts and fills are,” Benzel adds. “With his knowledge of the history of the ground, we can achieve a good nutritional balance across the fields without over fertilizing an area. We try to even it all out, which makes a big difference.”