When it was time for me to choose a career path, I didn’t have much in mind. In the mid 1970s, I attended a career day at Butte College where a pest control adviser was the guest speaker. From then on, I was hooked! After graduating from Chico State University, I went to work for John Taylor Fertilizer Co., which later became Wilbur-Ellis Co. I have worked out of the same office in Ord Bend, Glenn County, for 36 years.
Although 2015 was challenging in many areas, yields were excellent. The statewide average was 88.9 cwt. Some fields stressed from lack of water, but still yielded well from additional top dressings and fungicides. Sheath blight and blast can be problematic, especially in M205, when rice fields dry out. Armyworms reached economic levels early in the season and again at panicle initiation and boot split. Pyrethroids and carbaryl (Sevin) provided only marginal control. Intrepid 2F may get a Section 18 if there is an issue again in 2016.
Resistant weeds, such as smallflower umbrella sedge, ricefield bulrush and clomazone-tolerant sprangletop, have become more widespread and economically damaging. Another challenge is rice mimic (late watergrass). Applying Regiment at the proper timing and rate provides excellent control. Bolero UltraMax is my go-to herbicide for resistant umbrella sedge, followed by Granite GR or Shark H2O, and a cleanup post-emergent spray of propanil plus Grandstand where necessary. Granite SC in combination with propanil provides excellent control of susceptible watergrass and ricefield bulrush. There is no silver bullet to provide 100 percent weed control, and, in some cases, yields are adversely affected.
Due to the long water hold for Bolero UltraMax and Shark H2O, algae is always a concern. I’ve had good luck and no yield drag by delaying pre-plant starter nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to 20 days or earlier if rice is above water to avoid an algae bloom. This timing is also beneficial if you have some root pruning from a Granite GR application. The most recent update on Butte rice herbicide is a full Section 3 label later in 2016. It may be available for limited acres if a Section 18 is granted.
A solid fertilizer program is essential for maximizing yields. Certain fields have been deficient in potassium and, in some cases, phosphorus and zinc; a soil sample can identify any problems. I have increased yields in alkali fields by adding 3 to 4 percent sulfur to aqua ammonia. As fields are fallowed due to the drought, more thought needs to be given to nitrogen requirements. As a general rule, one year fallowed, 10 units less N; two years fallowed, 20 units less N, or base nitrogen applications on a leaf analysis.
As a PCA in California associated with rice farms in the Sacramento Valley, I know I made the right career move. With many young, bright PCAs graduating college and filling the void left from retiring PCAs, the rice industry has a bright future ahead.