After graduating from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and getting my pest control adviser (PCA) license, I planned to work for a manufacturer or distributor as a consultant. However, after returning to Northern California in March 2001, I had the opportunity to start farming rice at Montna Farms and currently serve as the vice president of operations. Although I still maintain my license, our team works closely with a PCA at Growers Ag Service, who does our infield consulting, writes recommendations and sources products. This past season, March rains slightly delayed planting, but both yields and quality were good following a fairly mild summer.
The primary weeds we deal with include smallflower umbrella sedge, ricefield bulrush, water plantain and watergrass. Early in the season, we make aerial applications of Bolero followed by Cerano. These herbicide applications are followed by ground applications of Granite SC and/or Regiment to control watergrass, sprangletop and roughseed bulrush. About a week later, we apply propanil. It’s a fairly expensive program, but our fields were very clean this year. We also believe this weed control strategy pushed our yields a little higher than normal. We constantly analyze the economics of our weed control program to determine if we are gaining yield. In areas where we see tolerance to some of the herbicides, we combine products to achieve the control we need.
Unfortunately, the price of rice is depressed right now, which affects our 2017 herbicide and fertilizer programs. We are trying to zero in on where we can achieve significant cost savings, but not to the detriment of yield and quality. We have to control weeds, but we are getting as creative as we can and working closely with our PCA to come up with a cost-effective program while still maintaining yield and quality.
Aerial Application Restrictions
Another challenge involves increasing regulations on aerial applications, including buffer zones around non-target crops near rice fields. In the future, we may be able to work with our local ag commissioner on improving monitoring programs to mitigate some of these restrictions. Incorporating new drift agents and applying granular herbicide formulations that tend not to drift like liquids also may be helpful in reducing restrictions. But today, after the early applications go out, we check wind conditions and then typically apply herbicides by ground, especially near sensitive tree crops, such as prunes and walnuts. Ground application provides good coverage and decreases drift potential.
Although a big crop appears to be coming out of the 2016 harvest, we have a lot of time to market it and markets can change. Now is the time to develop strategies for being more efficient going into the 2017 planting season.
Montna Farms, Vice President of Operations
- B.S., Agribusiness with a concentration in farm and ranch management, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
- Rice farmer and currently vice president of operations for Montna Farms
- Licensed Pest Control Adviser
- Member, California Association of Pest Control Advisers
- Director, Yuba-Sutter Farm Bureau
- Chair, Yuba/Sutter/Nevada County Committee – FSA
- Director, Resource Conservation District in Sutter County
- Alternate, California Rice Commission Board of Directors
- Married to wife, Alice; Two children: Jack, 11; and Jonny, 9
- Enjoys hunting, fishing and watching his sons play baseball. Also enjoys spending family time out and about on the farm, traveling and water skiing on Liberty Lake