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.