Dry weather aids fast start to rice planting in California this season

• By Bruce Linquist •

aerial plantig in california

Water seeding a California rice field.

This morning, I was out with several members of our research team on the northwest side of the Sacramento Valley planting a variety trial. The grower we were working with had just finished planting all of his rice acreage (1,200 ac) yesterday (April 30).

Pretty amazing how fast the rice is getting in this year. I know the west side is often earlier than the rest of the valley; however, growers around the valley are moving much faster this year. By the end of next week, we will likely have all of our variety trials (we have seven this year) planted. We have accomplished this so early before.

This is a good start to the season! Generally, when we plant early, yields tend to be higher. This is clear from the figure below. This figure shows state-wide yield averages from 1994 to 2019 relative to the date when 50% of the rice acreage had been planted (based on USDA data).

One reason for higher yields is that dry springs (which allow for early planting dates) also give growers time to prepare their seedbed exactly how they want to without skipping passes.

From the University of California Cooperative Extension Rice Yield Contest, we have seen that good and uniform stand establishment is a key for high yields. Realizing that the yield potential may be higher this year, the N fertilizer requirement may be a bit higher.

It will be important to access the crop midseason (around panicle initiation) to see if the crop may need more N fertilizer to realize its potential. This can be done with either a Leaf Color Chart or the Green Seeker.

The UCCE Rice Yield Contest (http://rice.ucanr.edu/Rice_Yield_Contest/) will be running again this year and we look forward to your participation and learning more about how to achieve high yields. The 2020 forms will be available soon. You will need to enter the contest by the annual Rice Field Day in late August.

Dr. Bruce Linquist is University of California Cooperative Extension rice specialist. He may be reached at balinquist@ucdavis.edu

2020 california rice planting chart