Owen Taylor, Editor (601-992-9488)
Making the best of a bad situation. That’s the only way to describe how many farmers and crop advisors are dealing with the effects of heavy rains in the Midsouth over the last several days. Totals of 9 inches or more fell across parts of the Delta, flooding numerous fields before growers were able to clean up weeds, apply pre-flood nitrogen or both. Much of the rice crop, overall, was running behind due to cool, wet conditions earlier, so this adds an extra layer of misery.
Tough decisions are being made about whether to drain fields and go with best management practices for the pre-flood period or keep the floods and push on from there. That second choice means dosing nitrogen into the flood multiple times between now and midseason, plus fighting grass and weeds in the water.
All manner of variables have to be weighed but the plant’s growth stage remains the primary consideration, Extension personnel emphasize.
Agrotain or similar products are being strongly recommended to stabilize nitrogen where it will be applied on muddy soils.
More rain is in the forecast going into the weekend, so some growers have already started flying nitrogen onto muddy soils.
Weed control will be tricky in certain cases where farmers wait for water to go down, notes Jason Bond, Mississippi State Weed Scientist. “How much the water drops could influence how effective herbicides are. Killing weeds above the water is no problem. But small weeds pose a challenge, depending on how dry a field gets. If you still have a film of water on all or part of the field, you’ll have no effect on something like cotyledon grass that’s still covered.”
Rice water weevils are at moderately high levels in Arkansas for this time of the year. More rain could further complicate management where people need to drain rice to gain control. See comments by Gus Lorenz.
Heavy fall armyworm pressure has hit rice east of Houston, Texas. See comments by M.O. Way.
Certain herbicides continue to be in short supply. A couple of our contacts this week said that unspecified manufacturers assured them that more product was moving into the system.
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M.O. Way, Texas A&M Entomologist, Beaumont: “We’ve had heavy, widespread infestations of fall armyworms east of Houston, although not so much on the west side. Some farmers are spraying, while others are flushing and flooding fields. Organic farmers are increasing the height of water and also using a Bt insecticide. Raising the water forces worms higher on the plant where they’re exposed to more sunlight and heat, which stresses them. We’re also seeing a lot of activity from a parasitic wasp.
“We’ve missed most of the big rains other parts of the rice belt have gotten in the last week. In Texas we may have some real early rice just starting to head. No confirmation of that, but we should be to that point soon.”
Gus Lorenz, Arkansas Extension IPM Specialist: “Rice water weevil (RWW) numbers are quite high in places and we’re seeing scarring in a lot of fields going to flood or cases where they’re at flood due to all the heavy rain. Overall pressure is moderately heavy for this time of the year.
"You could drain to gain control but with so much rain and more falling today (6/10), how do you dry fields down until the surface cracks? Some people probably reduced the use of seed treatments to economize, and this is turning out to be the wrong year for that. If you have to fall back on foliar insecticides, try to catch adults before they lay eggs, but I’ve already seen one photo of eggs laid in a leaf sheath.”
Steve Schutz, Ind. Consultant, Coushatta, Louisiana: “Our rice looks good. It’s late, and we’ve just started flooding about 15% of it but should have more going to flood this week. I’m finding a few junglerice escapes that we can hit before we start flooding those fields.”
Wayne Dulaney, Dulaney Seed Co., Clarksdale, Mississippi: "We got 3.5 to 4 inches of rain today (6/9) and now have a lot of rice flooded all around us that didn’t have pre-flood herbicides or nitrogen. Some growers will keep the flood. The worst part of that – and I speak from experience – is having to spoon-feed nitrogen, putting out maybe 100 pounds per acre every week or so.
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“You’d prefer cleaning things up before the flood, too, but in these cases we can use RebelEX or a Facet and Regiment combination. We’ve had trouble getting herbicides out, anyway. It’s been too wet to run ground rigs over the last 7 to 14 days, plus everybody made a big drive to plant soybeans instead of dealing with rice. On top of all that, we’ve got a list of herbicides that are either not available or in tight supply.”
Keith Collins, Extension Agent, Richland Parish, Louisiana: “We’ve got some zero-grade rice that we’ve been able to put to flood but otherwise all the rain has delayed progress on the rest of the crop. If it had stayed drier we could be pulling levees this week and fertilizing and flooding up a big part of our crop. But this last round of rain will delay things another week or so. We’ve had rain off and on for the last 2 weeks and over the last 2 nights (from 6/10). A couple of gauges I check went 1.5 and 2 inches and some places got more. Rain is still in the forecast, too.”
Johnny Saichuk, Louisiana Extension Rice Specialist, Crowley, Louisiana: "More rain. People in south Louisiana had already rebuilt levees from another big rain last week and were worried about whether they’d hold up when all the rain started this week.
“Overall, rice is progressing, but with this kind of weather in June we probably won’t exactly have high yields. We simply haven’t had enough sunshine and heat. Last year we grew a phenomenal crop, the best ever statewide, but don’t expect anything like that in 2014. It will be okay but nothing spectacular.
“We’re wrapping up weed control in south Louisiana and they’re in the middle of it in north Louisiana. Down here we’re scouting for disease but, so far, it’s relatively quiet. However, if it keeps raining that picture could change fast.
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“It’s rained enough in parts of the state to flood some fields before people were ready. They hadn’t cleaned up weeds in places or applied nitrogen. If they keep the flood and push on from there, it’s inefficient to try to drop all your pre-flood nitrogen into the water all at once. You’ve got to put it on a little at a time up to midseason. With those added costs, it’s not worth it in many cases to hold water, plus nitrogen applied to water is never as effective as watering it into the soil.
“One exception would be where people have well water that’s somewhat salty. In that case, yes, you might be better off holding the water. But understand that we’ve never been successful spoon feeding nitrogen into a flood.”
Jarrod T. Hardke, Arkansas Extension Rice Specialist: “Rain this week has been spotty in places, just a few inches, but in other locations it rained 7 inches or more. As some of the water started going away, fertilizer was being flown on. In some cases they were dropping it into muddy fields but it also was being flown onto some flooded fields.
“Cleanup sprays started this morning (6/11) as the water went down and the wind laid down. But the situation varies widely. Some growers applied herbicides before all the rain and are okay on weed control at the moment, but now they’re deciding what to do about fertilizer. Other fields don’t have levees finished and couldn’t be flooded right now, anyway. And then we have those fields with a premature flood, and growers are trying to decide whether to keep it.
“The key question with any of these decisions is what is the crop’s growth stage? Is it 5-leaf rice right now or was it 5-leaf rice 10 days ago? Those are 2 different scenarios altogether. If it’s at 5 leaves, you have a little more time to let the water drop and maybe get some drying. You at least have a chance of flying nitrogen onto the soil surface and not dropping it into water.
“Where people already are flying nitrogen onto muddy ground, they can at least get some drying today and all day tomorrow before Thursday night or Friday morning when more rain is in the forecast. If it’s a significant rain, I think those growers will go ahead and flood up rather than dry down again with their urea out.
“If a field is 10 days past the fifth-leaf point, you don’t have time to wait. Get fertilizer out on mud now, don’t wait to catch a dry day next week. Where you have standing water and rice that far along, roll up the gates and then start spoon feeding the rice once the water stabilizes and continue doing that every 5 to 7 days up to midseason.” (Editor’s Note: Connect in our Links section to Hardke’s newsletter from last week that expands on several of these points.)
Bobby Golden, Interim Mississippi Extension Rice Specialist: “Rain this week ranged from 1 to 6 inches, probably more in places. People ended up with floods before they were completely ready in terms of fertilizer, herbicides or both. A lot of guys want to keep the flood, but that means 2 or even 3 extra nitrogen applications to spoon feed the crop. That’s the worst-case scenario. Dropping fertilizer into water is a lot less efficient than depositing it on the soil surface and watering it in.
“The second option is treating urea with an MBPT coating, such as Agrotain, and flying it onto the mud if there’s no skim of water. Ideally, we’d like the surface to be dry but nowhere in the Delta do we have fields that are close to having a dry surface.
“To make any kind of decision, take into account the plant’s growth stage. Letting some fields dry down – if the weather cooperates – could take 2 weeks or more. Depending on the growth stage of a field right now, plants could be into joint movement and then close to midseason by the time you could establish a flood again. Waiting for perfect pre-flood conditions now would probably shortchange the rice plant, again depending on the crop stage when it rained.
“If you had 2- to 3-leaf rice, you have time to let it dry up. But if it’s 6- or 7-leaf rice, start thinking about getting nitrogen on the best way you can.”
Ralph Mazzanti, Extension Rice Research Verification Coordinator, South Arkansas: “With these last storms, we got from 3 to 6 inches in our 10 verification fields, and they’re scattered over a wide area south of Interstate 40. That tells you this wasn’t a localized rain event. In some cases we took rice to flood a little early when we caught a short dry spell. We put fertilizer out with Agrotain, then caught a rain and flooded it up. Plants were at 4 leaves instead of 5, which we’d prefer, but we’re glad now we did it.
“All the rain lately has gone a long way toward flooding most of our fields. We have flow meters at 9 of the fields and they’ve barely run at all. On some later rice we could be delayed on preflood fertilizer since there’s a 30% chance of rain going into the weekend. That might put us past our DD50 pre-flood dates in places.”
Wendell Minson, Bootheel Crop Consultants, Dexter, Missouri: "With all this rain, our rice is all over the board. Let me add that we haven’t gotten the monster rains like other people are reporting. Instead, we’ve gotten enough small showers in the last 2 weeks to keep things from drying out.
“Growers who are in the best shape stopped planting beans long enough to pull levees, fertilize and clean up weeds where they could. Among my clients, 2% of our rice is to flood and maybe 95% is ready if we could ever spray and put out fertilizer. Today (6/11) we’re going into the third week with a lot of fields like that.
“Weeds and grass are getting bigger where we haven’t flooded. We’ll throw heavy rates at them when we can and otherwise do the rest after the flood. We’ve scraped around for herbicides and are getting into different combinations, but I have this fear that some in-flood chemicals will get short.
“In places, we put fertilizer on but haven’t been able to pull levees, and that rice is growing good. In other cases, we’ve sprayed but haven’t been able to fertilize. Grass is exploding in some rice and we’re trying to get over it with an airplane ahead of the flood. This is going to be an expensive crop. More than anything, we need a full week with no rain.
“We’ve had some bedded, furrow-irrigated rice for several years and saw an increase in those acres this year. These conditions are actually perfect for it.”
Arkansas Rice: Nitrogen Management In Troubled Times (Second Item)
Propane Stocks: Increase by 3.4M Barrels 6-12
Diesel Prices: Average Drops 3 Cents 6-12
Arkansas: Lots of Rain, Little Growth – USDA 6-9
Arkansas Rice: Planting Is Done but Flooding Is Late 6-6
Louisiana: Heavy Rain, Replanted Soybean Acres – USDA 6-9
Mississippi Rice: Late Start, Rains Have Delayed Field Flooding 6-6
Texas: Rice Field Day Scheduled June 24 at Eagle Lake 6-9
Mo Way on Texas Rice: Don’t Wait for the Egrets 6-6
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