Challenges Related To Water Situation

Jake Onstott • B.S. degree in agribusiness – Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo • Member of California Association of Pest Control Advisers (CAPCA) • Has consulted for 19 years • Consults on rice, walnuts, almonds and prunes • Married to wife, Kristin • Two children: Levi, 12, and Elizabeth, 9 • Enjoys duck hunting, fly fishing, coaching youth sports and traveling

by Jake Onstott
PCA, Growers Ag Service, Inc.
Yuba City, Calif.

I grew up as the third generation in a family of crop dusters, but my love has always been to “play in the dirt.” After deciding that I wasn’t going into flying, I began working as a scout for a couple of PCAs while in college. My career took off from there. Being an ag consultant was as close to being a farmer as I could get. So that was the route I chose to take. I worked for a fertilizer company for 10 years, then joined Growers Ag Service in 2009.

Today, the drought is still on California rice farmers’ minds, although we are off to a really good start as far as rainfall. Not knowing how much surface water will be available has led to many wells being drilled to help farmers sustain their operations. One of the challenges faced by growers who rely on well water or who weren’t able to properly decompose their straw last year is scum control. It can be very problematic when trying to establish a stand. Some farmers will drain the field to allow the rice to get above the scum before it forms and floats to the surface. We’ve also found that making phosphate starter applications 20 to 25 days after seeding as opposed to applying it preplant definitely helps reduce the scum population.

As far as weed control, we try to control grass and certain broadleaves early with Cerano or Granite GR to avoid weed competition while the rice is getting established. Thirty-five to 40 days later, we rely heavily on propanil and Regiment to clean up remaining sedges, broadleaf weeds and any escaped grasses. I typically use Granite GR in a permanent flood situation. With a zero-day water hold, it offers more flexibility and longer residual control. Granite GR also takes out a wider spectrum of weeds than some of the other herbicides on the market out here. Watergrass, or rice mimic, is a big target weed for us along with propanil-resistant sedges like smallflower umbrella plant and ricefield bulrush. Where Granite SC is used, it’s often combined with Clincher. These two chemistries work very well together.

GRANITE Herbicide from Dow AgroSciencesAlso, rice farmers who are baling their straw and removing it from the field need to get a good soil analysis prior to planting to make sure that potassium levels are sufficient, especially if they baled straw for several years in a row. Ideally, potassium should be applied in a preplant program to help the roots on the rice plant get established.

Although many farmers delayed working their ground and planting last year because of the unknowns associated with the water situation, we still had some of the highest yields that we have had in a long time. I also grow some rice, so I keep reminding myself that as the world population and the upper class within this population continues to grow, there is going to be more demand for a higher quality and safer food supply. Our rice is the perfect fit for that scenario. Regardless of what happens in the short term, I believe the long-term future of California rice looks bright.


Recap: Challenges Related To Water Situation

1. The drought is still on California rice farmers’ minds, although we are off to a really good start as far as rainfall.
2. One of the challenges faced by growers who rely on well water or who weren’t able to properly decompose their straw last year is scum control. Some farmers will drain the field to allow the rice to get above the scum. Also, making phosphate starter applications 20 to 25 days after seeding as opposed to applying it preplant definitely helps reduce the scum population.
3. We try to control grass and certain broadleaves early with Cerano or Granite GR to avoid weed competition while the rice is getting established. Watergrass, or rice mimic, is a big target weed for us along with propanil-resistant sedges like smallflower umbrella plant and ricefield bulrush.
4. Where Granite SC is used, it’s often combined with Clincher. These two chemistries work very well together.
5. Rice farmers who are baling their straw and removing it from the field need to get a good soil analysis prior to planting to make sure that potassium levels are sufficient, especially if they baled straw for several years in a row. Ideally, potassium should be applied in a preplant program.