Strategic Water Management Is Key

Mark Gustafson
Mark Gustafson

Mark Gustafson
Helena Chemical Company
Yuba City, Calif.

Growing up, I spent a lot of time helping my grandfather on his farming operation and knew that I wanted to be a crop advisor since high school. I worked for two years as an intern for Helena Chemical Company while attending Chico State, and after graduating, joined the company fulltime. I’ve always enjoyed working in rice.

Today the weed dynamics have changed. We’re seeing more resistance to some of the older chemistry, especially in rice mimic and smallflower umbrella sedge. We have to be more proactive on timing and how we apply herbicides. For instance, in rice we will put down Granite SC for monochloria, lily weeds and tough-to-control grasses, followed by propanil applications to help clean them up. When making the second or third application in battling these resistant weeds, we tankmix a lot of different herbicides to combat the large diversity of weeds that are present. We add Londax and Grandstand to the propanil to assist with the cleanup. When battling rice mimic, we apply a high rate of Regiment 25 to 30 days after seeding and follow up seven to 10 days later with propanil applications as a one-two punch. We’ve found that this approach knocks the weeds down better.

In a good water year, we are able to be more strategic about our herbicide programs, enabling us to utilize both aerial and ground rig applications for our primary herbicides. Last June in a lot of the rice areas, we applied Cerano up front in a static flood, then followed up with Granite GR in some areas and Bolero in other areas. During the mid-tiller stage, we used ground rigs to clean up sedges, late watergrass, ducksalad and arrowhead.

GRANITE Herbicide from Dow AgroSciencesTo determine the best fertility programs for our farmers, we take tissue samples in-season during panicle initiation, then pull soil samples in the spring. We are site-specific on our nitrogen applications. We put the aqua down up front. A lot of my growers have an aqua roller, so we can lay down a custom blend of starter fertilizer on top of the soil while we are shanking in the aqua. After making our herbicide applications, we come back through from max-tiller to panicle initiation and topdress to carry the crop through harvest and take stress off the plant, using ammonium sulfate from 100 to 150 pounds per acre to give it a 20- to 30-unit bump. This helps increase yields, too.

In 2015, if California does not receive its much needed precipitation, we could see an additional 20 percent decrease in rice acreage over last year. Right now, we are at 40 percent capacity in Shasta and 38 percent in Oroville, compared to the more typical 60 to 70 percent mark with a good snowpack. There is no snowpack this year, so strategic water management is critical. Make sure all of your checks are buttoned up and there are no leaks in the levees. Make good use of every drop of water that is available.

More about the author:

  • B.S. degree in Crop Science – Chico State University
  • Licensed Pest Control Adviser and Certified Crop Advisor
  • Member of California Association of Pest Control Advisers (CAPCA)
  • Has consulted for 11 years
  • Consults on rice, almonds, walnuts, corn, alfalfa, wheat, prunes and peaches
  • Married to wife, Angela. Two children: Cheyanne, 11; and Cole, 9
  • Enjoys hunting, fishing and snowmobiling with the family at their cabin in LaPorte, Calif.

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