First 20 Days After Planting Are Key

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 9.49.04 AMBy Paul Squires
Squires Ag Consulting, Inc.
Yuba City, CA

I worked on several rice farms while in college and as a field scout for John Taylor Fertilizers. During my last year of college, I acquired my PCA license and started to build a reputation and client list. The one word that describes how I got into the business of rice consulting is “opportunity.” Great people and leadership gave me a chance.

At the beginning of May, rice growers are hustling to prepare the soil, optimize fertilizer and chemical options and communicate their intentions and opportunities after a long winter of unknowns. We have been under an assumption for months that a 40 percent water allocation was a real possibility. Today, we are expecting a 75 percent allocation and are more educated on the real value of the commodity that makes the industry what it is; water is the dictator that is painfully showing California agriculture who is important.

Weed pressure in 2014 will be a continuation of the past years of adaptation. Weed species that used to be in the background are joining watergrass and others in the foreground. Sprangletop has become a part of the discussion now. Creative combinations of herbicides and methods of application improve our ability to manage the difficult and evolving presence of weeds that we face in an aquatic environment. Unfortunately, air applications of Clincher CA for control of watergrass and sprangletop are limited due to issues with surrounding crops. Clincher CA is effective, safer to a rice crop than other options and works well with stand establishment practices. Alternative ground applications are used with patience and timely water management. Fortunately, we have Granite GR, Cerano and Regiment to help with our rotations.

The majority of my time spent on a rice crop is focused on the first 20 days after planting. Water management during that time can dictate the crop’s yield potential and pest management results for the rest of the year. In regard to fertility, delayed applications of starter fertilizer programs have been a management approach to reducing populations of Nostoc, commonly referred to as “scum.” I also see a benefit to the delayed application if a field is drained to establish a stand or for a herbicide application of Clincher CA or Abolish that may expose the soil to enough oxygen to create a loss of applied nitrogen. Timing depends on how comfortable I am that the rice will remain above water without developing scum or algae that could be encouraged by the application, generally around 20 days after seeding.

Patrick Smith, a world champion cowboy, said, “It is not what we get by achieving our goals, it is what we become.” California growers have become more educated, prepared, flexible and understanding in the process of maintaining our business and a way of life that benefits others. Feeding the world is a noble occupation. All agricultural industries that contribute to the cause should be proud.
Recap:

  1. Weed species that used to be in the background are joining watergrass and others in the foreground. Sprangletop has become a part of the discussion now.
  2. Unfortunately, air applications of Clincher CA for control of watergrass and sprangletop are limited due to issues with surrounding crops. Clincher CA is effective, safer to a rice crop than other options and works well with stand establishment practices. Alternative ground applications are used with patience and timely water management. Fortunately, we have Granite GR, Cerano and Regiment to help with our rotations.
  3. Water management in the first 20 days after planting can dictate the crop’s yield potential and pest management results for the rest of the year.
  4. Delayed applications of starter fertilizer programs have helped reduce populations of Nostoc. Delayed applications also are beneficial if a field is drained to establish a stand or for a herbicide application of Clincher CA or Abolish that may expose the soil to enough oxygen to create a loss of applied nitrogen.