• By Bruce Linquist •
2021 was generally a good season for California rice production. A dry spring lead to earlier-than-normal planting. And a dry fall allowed harvest to proceed without interruption until late October when historic rainfall resulted in the remaining 5% of unharvested rice being a challenge to cut.
This led contestants in the University of California Cooperative Extension Yield Contest to cut some very high entries, ranging from 108.3 to 137.3 cwt/ac (241 to 305 bu/ac). Milling yields varied widely this year and depended a lot on harvest timing relative to the two periods of strong, warm north winds during the fall.
Due to regional yield potential differences, the Sacramento 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.
The 2021 winners were Hafeez Rehman, Region 1; Jack Sheppard, Region 2; and Gordon Wylie, Region 3.
Hafeez Rehman | Region 1
Rehman’s field was in Glenn County and yielded 113.2 cwt/ac. The field had been in rice the previous year, and straw was incorporated and flooded over the winter. Rehman planted M-210 (a blast-resistant variety) at a rate of 175 lb/ac on May 13. He applied a total of 193 lb N/ac (135 as aqua, 32 as 16-20-0 and 26 as a top-dress of ammonium sulfate).
His herbicide program was Butte followed by Regiment. He also applied lambda-cy insecticide a week after planting and Quadris fungicide at early heading. His field was harvested Oct. 5, and his head and totals were 65/72.
Jack Sheppard | Region 2
Sheppard farms in Butte County, and his field yielded 135.8 cwt/ac. This is a record for this region. The highest prior to this was achieved last year by Eric Sligar with 127.9 cwt/ac with M-211.
Sheppard’s field had been in rice the previous year, and straw was incorporated and flooded over the winter. He dry-seeded M-211 at a rate of 150 lb/ac, and his first flush was completed April 20.
Sheppard applied 223 lb N/ac (120 aqua, 35 as 8-10-8 and 68 in two top-dress N applications). The higher-than-normal N rate was due to anticipated N losses when aqua is used for dry-seeding. His herbicide program was Prowl followed by Regiment and Superwham.
Sheppard applied Quadris fungicide 85 days after planting. His field was harvested on Sept. 22 with grain moisture of 19.7%. His milling yield was 63/73.
Gordon Wylie | Region 3
Wylie farms in Colusa County, and his field yielded 137.3 cwt/ac. This is the highest yield we have ever recorded in our contest. The previous record, by Sean Dougherty from the same region, was 135 cwt/ac with M-209. Wylie’s field was fallowed the previous year.
It was planted to M-211 on April 20 at a seeding rate of 142 lb/ac. The total N rate was 149 lb/ac (117 as aqua, 32 as 16-20-0 starter). The herbicide program was Butte followed by propanil. Mustang insecticide was applied early and Quadris fungicide at boot-split. The field was harvested on Sept. 24.
Learnings from the contest
In 2015, University of California Cooperative Extension began the UCCE Rice Yield Contest. 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 the seven years we have held the contest, we have learned a number of things. First, high yields are possible from a number of commercial medium-grain varieties. Winners have included M-105, M-205, M-206, M-209, M-211 and M-401.
However, since M-211 has come on the scene, it has become a game-changer and has been shown in our variety trial to have higher yield potential in areas where it is adapted.
Second, yield potential varies from year to year (with 2017 and 2019 being low and 2021 being high). They also vary throughout the valley, and that’s the reason farmers compete with growers in their own region.
Third, even at high yields, the head rice and milling yields remain good. Fourth, to achieve these high yields, fertilizer N rates were typical for California and generally range from 150 to 200 lb N/ac for the winners.
Fifth, good, uniform stand establishment stand out as being important. In the contest, the highest yields typically have more than 70 tillers per ft² at harvest. Finally, high yields can be achieved with a range of herbicide programs.
Good turnout for these contests are in part due to a prize that we offer. This year, it 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 the prize due to the generous support of our UCCE Yield Contest sponsors. In 2021, they were Corteva, FMC, Gowan, Nichino, UPL, Valent, Valley Truck and Tractor, and Wilbur-Ellis.
Dr. Bruce Linquist is University of California Cooperative Extension rice specialist.