Carefully Manage High Input Costs

rcc-Todd-MillerI grew up on a family farm in Grimes, Calif. While attending California State University-Chico, I got the opportunity to be a field checker for Colusa County Farm Supply. Therefore, after graduating in 1995, I went to work for Agriform as a PCA. I enjoy the opportunity to help other farmers and also continue to help out on my family’s farm.

2013 started out relatively easy compared to the previous years. It was dry, and it still is. I thought the year was going to be relatively straightforward, then the winds hit. I have never seen wind blow so hard for so many days. We had gusts of 50 mph. Some of the stands got pushed around. In some instances, the water blew off when the north winds hit, and we couldn’t get it back. Therefore, some of the rice dried out, and stands were weaker than expected.

Everyone was very nervous, but the weather eventually turned around. The first part of July was really hot, which made chemical applications difficult. In the end, we were quite happy with how the year finished out compared to how it started. The year began with a left hook but finished with a bang. Every field is unique in its own way, from managing fertility problems to weed pressure along with disease. I like to take my soil samples right after harvest so I can plan during the winter months for spring treatments.

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 7.18.07 PMWeed resistance is becoming a problem with watergrass, sprangletop and smallflower. Managing these weeds is becoming harder and harder every year. Managing them in 2013 was particularly difficult because of the thinner stands. We have many herbicides in our toolbox that we can use, either by themselves or in combos. My experience has taught me that we have to get a stand first, and each tool is unique in its own way.

Bolero works well for sprangletop and smallflower control. I usually apply Granite for harder-to-control watergrass, ducksalad and bulrush. Cerano is a good tool for watergrass and sprangletop if it’s not resistant. One combo that I’ve seen work really well in the first round is Abolish tankmixed with Regiment at 4- to 5-leaf rice. SuperWHAM! seems to get the major nod for the second round applications. We’re seeing some resistance to sedges with SuperWHAM!, so more guys are using Shark to help combat resistance. Grandstand goes on about every acre either with SuperWHAM! or Regiment.

Blast is becoming a widespread issue in California. What started out as little pockets has spread across the Sacramento Valley. We have to watch out for it all the way up to harvest.

As PCAs, we have to be very careful in managing these ranches with high input costs, i.e., diesel, rent, chemicals and fertilizers. It’s tough with low commodity prices. The bottom line can end up being very thin for the farmer.

Todd Miller
Pest Control Adviser
Agriform, A Division of the Tremont Group
Woodland, Calif.

• B.S. degree in Plant Science from California State University-Chico

• Member of California Association of Pest Control Advisers

• Consults on rice, tomatoes, walnuts, almonds, alfalfa, seed crops, wheat, dry beans, corn, safflower and oats

• Volunteer fireman, Sacramento River Fire Dept. (Captain)

• Married to his lovely bride Shelley. Two children: Tristan, 10; and Chasey, 8

• Enjoys golf, Abalone diving, snow skiing, spending time with his family and coaching his kids in baseball