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My brother, Jon, and I got our start in the late 1980s when the farm economy was in a decade-long slump. Commodity prices were below cost of production, interest rates on capital were in the double digits, land prices had hit rock bottom and farm foreclosures were skyrocketing. These unfortunate factors created the opportunity for the two of us to pursue our lifelong dream of farming.
We knew if we were going to be successful, we would have to do a good job managing risk. We diversified into row crops and maintained adequate crop insurance as a safety net. Today, our rice acres fluctuate from 3,500 to 7,000 acres year to year, depending on the weather. Much of our acreage is grown on the floodplain, so it is sensitive to both excessive water and drought.
We have had above-average rainfall and snow pack for 2019, which should result in no water cutbacks from the state. But with the saturated soils and more rain in the forecast, the window for optimum ground preparation is diminishing. For effective weed control, it’s critical to have a uniform seedbed, scout fields in a timely manner and adapt your herbicide program accordingly. Sutter County also has a large amount of acreage planted to fruit and nut crops, which pose a challenge when applying herbicides to rice. Restrictions dictate that Clincher CA and Regiment CA herbicides be applied by ground, and propanil applications have a 4-mile aerial buffer from prune trees.
Programs In Place To Combat Grasses And Sedges
The most troublesome weeds for us are grasses and sedges — ricefield bulrush and smallflower umbrella sedge. Twenty-five percent of our rice acres are drill seeded to short grain rice, which typically allows us to go in 20 days after seeding and apply a tankmix of Clincher CA and Prowl H20. We have been happy with the level of grass control these products provide. To control a minor weed like redstem, we apply Grandstand CA herbicide.
We have some fields that are Class III soils, and they are typically rice after rice. To help prevent herbicide weed resistance, we change the chemistry and modes of action every year. Because we can use different herbicides on non-rice crops, we rotate rice with row crops on a lot of our other fields outside the flood plain. Although a three-year rotation helps us avoid building up a large weed seed bank, we still rotate our rice herbicides from year to year.
For example, the first year we plant rice following a non-rice crop, the fields are relatively clean. Since we don’t have a lot of pressure from watergrass, we may apply Bolero herbicide to control sedges. The second year we will apply Granite GR or Cerano herbicide followed by propanil to clean up the sedges. We don’t have a lot of tools in our toolbox in California, but we try to rotate all the rice herbicides that are available to help avoid resistance. During the critical times of stand establishment and herbicide application, it’s imperative that we have open communication among our pest control adviser, irrigator and applicators as field conditions can change daily.
We stay informed about weed control programs by attending continuing education meetings, some of which are required to use a manufacturer’s product. This is a great way to network with other growers and PCAs to see what problems they are having and get their opinions on what’s working for them. Our county Extension farm advisers also provide technical research and are a great source when problems arise in the field. Over the past few years, red rice (weedy rice) has reared its ugly head.
Our farm advisers, along with the California Crop Improvement Association, have developed protocols to identify and manage this threatening weed.
We also are fortunate to have a strong rice organization — the California Rice Commission — to promote and protect our industry. California farmers grow some of the highest quality rice in the world. And for 2019, it looks like supply and demand is back in balance. The market should stay firm and hopefully strengthen when President Trump’s trade deals are complete.
Sutter County, California
• Lance attended California State University, Chico. Jon attendedArizona State University
• Formed their farming partnership in the late 1980s
• Grow rice, processing tomatoes, corn and dry beans. They also raise sunflowers, watermelons, squash and cucumbers for seed production
• Market their own Koshihikari premium short grain rice under the Black Fox brand typically within a 50-mile radius of the farm and on the Web at blackfoxbrand.com
• Lance and Jon both volunteer for Field of Dreams — a 501(c) non-profit that focuses on outdoor adventures for veterans, Gold Star Children and kids facing medical challenges
• Lance and Jon enjoy spending time with their families, waterfowl hunting and barbecuing