Paving The Way To Profitability


Jimmy Cheetham
Helena Agri-Enterprises LLC
Chico, California

The Helena Agri-Enterprises research group in the West is a true, third-party contract research organization. For example, if a basic manufacturer wants to develop a product and potentially bring it to market to help farmers be more profitable, they can contract us to do the trial work.

The rice research we conduct begins with product characterization in replicated small plots and can culminate in product registration followed by a full commercial launch. I work out of two principal locations that every year we convert into independent research stations tailored to our trial. These sites offer unique weed species and soil types. I also go to satellite locations — generously provided by our cooperative farmers — targeting specific weeds or soil conditions.

Attention To Barnyardgrass
The rice weed spectrum in our research locations includes multiple species of grasses, sedges and broadleaf weeds. The grasses can typically have the most financial impact on growers, followed by sedges and broadleaf weeds.

In the past couple years, we’ve seen a resurgence of barnyardgrass that has posed some problems. Although we’ve been able to keep it under control for upwards of a decade, we are now seeing a lot more escapes.

I have collected a number of samples and sent them to the University of California for resistance testing. They have always come back susceptible, not resistant, which is encouraging. However, we continue to see this problem even with weed management programs that have been very efficacious in the past.

We intend to pursue our research to mitigate the issue. In addition to existing chemistries, we will be using new chemistries to characterize their performance. We’ll also look at cultural practices — such as water management — and herbicide combinations that we may not have traditionally paired.

A Peek At What Works
As a product begins to develop and gets closer to registration, we are allowed to showcase it. Every year, we have a series of Outreach Trials in different areas on larger acres. During the summer, we host a field day and invite growers, salesmen, and manufacturer and university representatives to come out and see what we are doing and learn from it. It’s a collaborative effort.

Over the years, we’ve helped develop very efficacious rice weed management programs. One example has been Butte herbicide applied at 1/2- to 1-leaf rice targeting sedges followed with an application of Granite® SC herbicide at early to mid-tiller timing to pick up broadleaf weeds and help with grass control. The program can also be run with Granite® GR herbicide, wherein we apply Butte and come back with Granite GR at the 3-leaf rice stage.

In the past couple years, if we have grass escapes, we’ll make a propanil herbicide application to tidy up. In cases where flood water has been drained early season and a pinpoint herbicide application is desired prior to reflooding, RebelEX® CA herbicide — a new co-formulation of Clincher® CA and Granite SC herbicides — is a good option.

We are excited about our work in the upcoming season and ready to make some headway. We are always learning. As we uncover new information, we have the opportunity to “call an audible” — try something different to move forward and see what happens. That’s important to our research.

More about Jimmy Cheetham

  • Northern California R&D Manager, Helena Agri-Enterprises LLC.
  • Based out of Chico, California. Cheetham’s territory ranges from the Oregon border to Modesto, California.
  • Worked as a rice researcher for 12 years.
  • Conducts research primarily on rice, almonds, walnuts and grapes.
  • Has the ability to work in any cropping system in northern California.
  • Enjoys hunting and fishing in the mountains and rivers of northern California.


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