Water Dominates the Rice Scene

Mike Davis – Pest Control Adviser, Helena Chemical Company
Chico, Calif.

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 2.58.23 PMGrowing up, I worked on a hay and cattle ranch in Livermore, Calif., prior to attending Chico State University where I received a degree in Agricultural Science. After graduating, I spent 15 years as a PCA with a privately owned ag retailer where I learned about the rice business. I continued working in this location after Helena acquired the company and have been there for a total of 26 years now.

In 2014, the drought is dominating everyone’s thoughts in the California rice industry. With the new water restrictions about to be announced, we want to target stand establishment by increasing the use of zone sampling and precision ag that lets us maximize nutrition and balance in the field to get the best stands possible – fertilize where it’s needed and not over fertilize in areas where it is not needed. This approach saves money, produces the best stand, and, along with good weed management, is the foundation for high yields.

Our herbicide programs are going to be limited because of water restrictions and the ever-increasing list of herbicide-tolerant weeds. Growers need to rotate chemicals and take advantage of in-the-water herbicide programs that don’t require early draining, as this option may not be available. For example, they can apply Cerano at seeding followed by Granite GR at the three-leaf rice stage. That’s a good program for sprangletop and watergrass, and Granite picks up tough weeds like ducksalad and helps with watergrass and suppression of roughseed bulrush. Where smallflower is a problem, which is becoming a bigger issue in our fields because of smallflower resistance to propanil, growers may go with Bolero followed by Granite GR for a one-two punch in the program, given the water situation.

Later, most growers apply propanil with Grandstand to help clean up late-escaping weeds and redberry. If mimic or resistant watergrass is a problem, they will apply Regiment about 25 to 30 days after seeding before the propanil application. That’s usually late enough where the water can go down, and they can fly that on without draining the fields ahead of the propanil/Grandstand application. Also, with surface water cutbacks and an increased use of well water, I anticipate a much bigger than normal issue with algae, or scum, in our rice fields. Traditionally, when there is a predominance of well water, or groundwater, being used, algae thrives and grows faster. Growers will need to watch for algae forming on the bottom of the rice checks and be aggressive in treating it early with copper sulfate or “bluestone.”

In a challenging year like this one, there are still many unknowns. I encourage growers to focus on fertility, establish a good stand and continue to steward the products that we have available to help manage herbicide resistance and control our tougher weeds.

Recap:

  1. With the new water restrictions about to be announced, we want to target stand establishment by increasing the use of zone sampling and precision ag that lets us maximize nutrition and balance in the field to get the best stands possible.
  2. Growers need to rotate chemicals and take advantage of in-thewater herbicide programs that don’t require early draining, as this option may not be available. For example, they can apply Cerano at seeding followed by Granite GR at the three-leaf rice stage. That’s a good program for sprangletop and watergrass, and Granite picks up tough weeds like ducksalad and helps with watergrass and suppression of roughseed bulrush.
  3. Where smallflower is a problem, which is becoming a bigger issue in our fields because of smallflower resistance to propanil, growers may go with Bolero followed by Granite GR for a one-two punch in the program, given the water situation.
  4. With surface water cutbacks and an increased use of well water, I anticipate a much bigger than normal issue with algae, or scum, in our rice fields. Growers will need to watch for algae forming on the bottom of the rice checks and be aggressive in treating it early with copper sulfate or “bluestone.”