• By Bruce Linquist •
In 2015, University of California Cooperative Extension started the UCCE Rice Yield Contest as a pilot study in Butte County.
The contest has now expanded to include all of the Sacramento Valley.Because of potential regional yield differences, the valley was divided into regions (1-NE, 2-NW, 3-S) using the Sacramento River and Highway 20 as dividing lines. All fields south of Highway 20 are a single region.
Harvest and weighing are closely monitored by UCCE personnel. Yields are determined from a minimum of 3 acres from a 10-acre test plot and reported at 14% moisture. In 2019, we supervised the harvest of 15 fields: three from NE, four from NW and eight from S.
2019 was a tough year for most growers due to an unusually wet May, which complicated planting and stand establishment. Generally, most growers reported lower yields in 2019 than in previous years.
Overall, contest yields were a bit lower than we normally see as well, except in the Glenn/Colusa area. That said, yields were still very respectable, and the 2019 winners were Greg Driver, Gary Enos and Jack Sheppard.
Driver farms near Robbins (S region) and had the highest overall yields at 119.2 hundredweight per acre. He achieved these yields using the variety M-209 planted on May 2 in a field that had previously been grown to rice — rice is planted every four to five years.
He used a seeding rate of 185 pounds per acre. His total nitrogen rate was 161 pounds N per acre. His herbicide program was Bolero/Londax followed by Grandstand.
Gary Enos farms near Willows (NW region) and had yields of 117.8 cwt per acre with the variety M-209. This field was planted on May 7 at a seeding rate of 190 pounds per acre and a total N rate of 163 pounds per acre.
For his herbicide program, he used Bolero followed by Propanil/Grandstand followed by Propanil.
The yields achieved by Enos were the highest we have recorded in the NW region.
Jack Sheppard farms near Biggs (NW region) with his father, Josh. Jack is 16 years old, and this was his first field farming. His yields were 113.8 cwt per acre. This was achieved with M-105 planted on May 9 at a seeding rate of 150 pounds per acre, a total rate of 182 pounds N per acre and a herbicide program of Butte followed by Superwham.
In general, (NW region excepted) yields were lower in 2019. Lower yields are likely due to the wettest May on record, which made early season stand establishment and weed control challenging.
A learning experience
In the five years we have run this contest, we have learned a number of things.
1. High yields are possible from several commercial medium-grain varieties. Winners have included M-105, M-205, M-206, M-209 and M-401.
2. Yield potential varies from year to year (with 2017 and 2019 being low) and vary throughout the valley (the reason farmers compete with growers in their own region).
3. Even at high yields, the head rice and milling yields remain good. Head rice totals for 2019 contest winners ranged from 64 to 67; total milling yields 71 to 73.
4. To achieve these high yields, fertilizer N rates were typical for California and ranged from 161 to 182 pounds N per acre for the winners.
5. Good, uniform stand establishment stands out as being important. Contest fields that yielded more than 110 cwt all had more than 70 tillers per square-foot at harvest.
6. High yields can be achieved with a range of herbicide programs.
Increased participation for this year’s contest was in part due to a prize that we offered. The prize was a John Deere side-by-side.
The winner from each region will draw for the prize at the upcoming winter grower meetings in January. We were able to have this prize due to the generous support of our contest sponsors: Corteva, FMC, Gowan, Nichino, Syngenta, UPL, Valent, Valley Truck and Tractor, and Wilbur-Ellis.
Dr. Bruce Linquist is a University of California Cooperative Extension rice specialist. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.