Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Circles for Rice Update | by Kelly Downing

Last week, I visited the rice field of one of our newest cooperators, Dean Schieffer of Bryan, Texas. Dean is a relatively new farmer, so this whole process is simultaneously exciting and terrifying, I am sure. Even though he is new to the process, and probably would prefer to have had a little more planning time before making the plunge, he has a good crop started.

Before deciding to plant rice, he had deep-ripped the field. This, along with lots of early-season rain, made the field pretty soft during planting, so the planter tire ruts were noticeable. Even with this, the plants look good. Dean is obviously conscientious; you just have to like a farmer who cannot walk through his field without pulling any weeds in sight. I really believe he will be successful.

In the field, I met with Dean, his rice consultant, and RiceTec representatives. All of us agreed that the young crop looks good. Plants are vigorous and appear to be tillering well. Of course, agriculture, like life, is a constant battle, so things are not perfect. There were a few large weeds, including some troubling bindweed, and a pretty good population of small grasses. However, the field scout was there that morning (Wednesday), and with timely spraying, these should be controlled.

There is not much rice grown in his neighborhood, so Dean is working in uncertain territory. He is getting great support from RiceTec, and he has a good scout to help with weed and disease issues. As we have found in the past few years, the overall process is very similar to flooded rice. What changes is the urgency of timing operations. With pivot rice, since there is no flood to help with weed suppression, we need to time applications by the clock, not by the calendar. In other crops, spraying within a three-day window may work out fine. However, in rice, earliest possible application is critical. Balancing the issues of drift to neighboring crops, lack of early canopy and efficacy of materials on small weeds is a critical process.

Dean seems to have a good handle on all these issues. As we all know, farming is a constant, tension-filled battle to assess conditions, allocate resources and time operations in the most effective, efficient manner possible. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming, but it really helps if you develop a solid plan, and then follow it. Of course, we all have to deal with the detours that come our way, and it sure helps to get lucky sometimes!

We will, of course, follow the crop through the season and let you know how things are going in all our fields. I hope you have a safe, productive, profitable season. Let us know how things are going in your neighborhood.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Recipe Card | by Kelly Cackin

Each week, we will post a new rice recipe for you to try and enjoy! 

In honor of the Memorial Day holiday here in the states, this week's recipe is called Rice on the Grill, originally posted by Shirley Hopkins on

Yield: 6 servings. 
Preparation Time:  15 min.
Cook Time: 15 min.

Photo by Soup Loving Nichole
  • 1 1/3 cups uncooked instant rice
  • 1/3 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine

In a 9-inch round aluminum foil pie pan, combine rice, mushrooms, pepper, onion, chicken broth, water, and ketchup. Dot with butter or margarine. Cover with heavy-duty foil; seal edges tightly. While covered, grill for about 15 minutes, or until liquid has been absorbed. Fluff the mixture with a fork and serve immediately.


One serving (prepared with low-sodium broth and reduced-fat margarine) equals 104 calories, 195 mg sodium, trace cholesterol, 21 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams protein, 2 grams fat, 1 gram fiber. 

So, fire up your grill, grab a cold drink, and enjoy the unofficial start of summer!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Bringing New Life into an Old Machine | by John Robison

New Sprinkler Package
Last week, Valley dealer Geisler Brothers of Wheatley, Arkansas, installed a new sprinkler package on Jeremy Baltz's center pivot.   This is a great way to upgrade your older center pivot, without having to replace the entire machine.   Updating sprinklers can make a center pivot or linear more efficient, as newer sprinklers often require lower pressure and energy to operate.  The update can also make the machine more accurate by correcting spray patterns.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Spotlight on Circles for Rice Cooperator Campbell Coxe | by Kelly Cackin

Campbell Coxe | Darlington, SC
In 2011, the Valley Circles for Rice team worked with Campbell Coxe, a rice grower and owner of Carolina Plantation Rice in Darlington, South Carolina, USA. He produced aromatic rice under a Valley center pivot, and it yielded a very profitable 116 bushels per acre.  As aromatics traditionally produce fewer bushels per acre than varieties and hybrids, this yield exceeded Campbell’s expectations.

During an interview last year, we asked Campbell why he decided to grow rice under a center pivot. “We wanted to expand our acreage, as well as rotate our rice crop with other crops,” he said.  “I think the most exciting thing about growing rice with a center pivot is being able to spoon feed our nitrogen and our fertilizer inputs, which we can do ourselves through the pivot.  We feel like the rice has really responded to the gradual increase in nitrogen.”

Tyler Fields of Guess Irrigation, the local Valley dealership in Hartsville, SC, led the team that provided the design and construction of the Carolina Plantation center pivot. Soil moisture monitoring and remote communication equipment were also installed, which enabled Campbell to utilize the latest Valley technology to ensure a successful result for his rice under center pivot.

“Campbell is a great example of how an innovative grower can combine traditional practices (good crop management) with modern concepts (center pivot irrigation) to produce a good crop, conserve resources, and be profitable,” stated Circles for Rice team member Kelly Downing.  “His 2011 rice yield under the center pivot exceeded his expectations and was profitable for his operation. For a first-time center pivot owner, we are impressed with his dedication to the Circles for Rice project.”   

Campbell has been an active member in the rice farming community for 20 years. In addition to operating Carolina Plantation Rice, his work includes rice plot research with the USDA Vegetable Laboratory in Charleston, SC, as well as co-development of a blast-resistant rice with his seed breeder in Beaumont, TX.  He is currently helping in the effort to bring rice production back to the state of South Carolina, the birthplace of rice in the United States.  With this effort, Campbell has expressed interest in working with other South Carolina growers to produce rice under center pivots.

For the 2012 growing season, Campbell has decided to produce a soybean crop under his center pivot, with the intention of rotating back to rice in 2013.

We want to know your rice producer story!  Shoot us an email or leave a comment in the box below.  (And don't forget to Share!)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Circles for Rice Update | by Kelly Downing

This week, I went to Missouri and Arkansas, and visited a few cooperators’ fields on Tuesday. Dennis Robison’s rice was at the V3 (three-leaf) stage. Chad Price’s rice was not quite as developed, probably V1 stage. It was a very windy day in the region, and many fields were exhibiting wind erosion, as the sandy soil started to blow. These two guys have experience with this issue, so I am confident they will be proactive in watering to suppress the sand-blasting that can occur under these conditions. Dennis and Chad farm a couple miles apart, on each side of the Missouri/Arkansas state line near Corning, Arkansas. 

Our primary mission was to install soil moisture monitoring equipment, but it was also good to get an early view of crop development and field conditions. The three fields we visited provided a range of early-crop status, from not-quite-emerged to V3. There is one additional cooperator a few dozen miles away, near Charleston, Missouri, who is about to plant, so we will include that site in our updates as the season progresses. 

S3 stage rice | prophyll has emerged
We met with Jeremy Baltz at his field near Pocahontas, Arkansas. As you can see in the photos below, by the middle of the afternoon the wind was intense, and there was a lot of soil moving. Conditions were as bad as any I have seen in the high plains of Texas through Nebraska, where we usually expect windy conditions like these. 

Jeremy planted around April 26th. His rice was at the S3 stage; not emerged from the soil, but the prophyll has emerged (see picture on right).

He began watering in an attempt to suppress the blowing sand, but it takes a few hours to make any progress. He mentioned that it is pretty difficult to out-guess Mother Nature and predict when to start this operation. Conditions were benign in the morning, but then “went to heck” at mid-day. He is fortunate that the rice has not yet emerged; keeping its “head down” has actually provided the crop protection from the natural sand-blaster.

Blowing soil
I have to admit, after taking the photos with my cell phone camera, the pictures do NOT accurately reflect the severity of conditions. Standing there, we could barely make out the edge of the field through the blowing sand. Even with wrap-around sunglasses, I got lots of dirt in my eyes. The bottom line is that he is fortunate the rice had not emerged, and he has the capacity to apply water to get the blowing soil under control. The seeds had adequate moisture; it was just the very top layer that had dried out and begun to blow.

Next week, I will be at a cooperator’s field in Texas, and will let you know how things are going there.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Circles for Rice Update | by Kelly Downing

In the Northern Hemisphere, spring is here and rice is in (and out of) the ground! We have been waiting and preparing all winter for the new crop; now, finally, we get to start growing again. I have to admit, I prefer autumn, with the harvest and sense of completion and accomplishment it brings. However, it is really nice, after a long winter, to get into the field and get the new crop going.

This year, Valley Irrigation has a total of five cooperators in three states: Texas, Missouri, and Arkansas.

In the Missouri and Arkansas areas, much of the new rice crop has been planted, and is now emerging, while planting moves north. This week, we will begin installing soil monitoring instrumentation into the rice fields of our cooperators. Dennis Robison and Chad Price farm right along the Missouri/Arkansas state line; they got into the fields early and their rice is up and growing. Both are “old hands” at this process—Dennis grew rice under his Valley center pivot in 2010, and Chad did it last year. Both produced excellent results, and are primed for another good crop this year. This week, we will install soil water sensors in their fields, which will be used to schedule irrigation. Other growers will be added to the system as they get their crop up and growing.

Soil Moisture Monitors | installed on a rice field
This is one way we increase our knowledge of the process—we monitor soil water status of rice under pivots in several fields each summer. This helps us fine-tune our irrigation recommendations. It is a great management practice for any irrigator to use, but is especially critical with rice, due to the shallow root zone and resulting small margin for error.

We all have biases, and one of mine is toward data-based irrigation management. Estimating evapotranspiration (ET), or crop water use, and using sensors to verify this information is critical for effective, efficient irrigation. Effective irrigation means making sure the crop gets all the water it needs to maximize production. Efficient irrigation means using the least possible resources (water, energy, labor) to accomplish this. Using ET data helps calculate when, and how much, to water the crop. Since these are estimates, we also recommend using sensors to periodically verify that, over time, the estimates are correct.

So, the (generally) warm spring has given most producers the chance to finish field operations in a timely manner, so planting and other activities seem to be proceeding at a pretty optimum pace. I hope you have a safe, enjoyable spring, and I look forward to sharing our progress with you as we work through the summer. Check back and let us know what is going on in your part of the world.