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Arkansas rice farmers fighting wind, water and insects

STUTTGART, Ark. — Wind, a problem all spring, is still causing a headache for many Arkansas rice farmers, says Chuck Wilson, Extension rice specialist.

“Farmers are trying to apply herbicides when the wind is not gusting. It’s tough in these conditions to get the weed control you need and not get the herbicide on someone else’s crop. The longer you wait, the bigger the weeds get. However, patience is the key.”

Wilson says Arkansas farmers planted an estimated 1.56 million acres of rice.

Preliminary acreage reports suggest that five varieties make up 91 percent of the rice crop. Wells represents the most acreage at 42 percent. Four other varieties make up most of the remaining acreage: Cocodrie (15 percent), CL 161 (12 percent), Francis (11 percent), and Bengal (11 percent). Other varieties and their approximate percentages include CL XL8 (2 percent), Cheniere (1 percent), LaGrue (1 percent), RiceTec XL8 (1 percent), Ahrent (6 percent) and Drew (5 percent).

Wilson says several farmers have decided to fertilize, flood and use Clincher to control grass after floods are established. “Low stocks of the herbicide have been reported,” he says, “and arrangements need to be made as soon as possible if farmers intend to use Clincher.”

After extensive rainfall during the Memorial Day weekend, several fields had standing water. Some farmers applied nitrogen into the floodwater, rather than draining the field. As precious as water has become, Wilson says, “this might seem like a good idea, particularly if the fields are clean and do not need additional herbicides.”

However, “applying nitrogen into the floodwater is inefficient. The best approach for nitrogen management is to drain the fields first. If you decide to apply nitrogen into the flood, spoon-feeding 100 pounds of urea a week for four to five weeks is the best option.”

The Extension specialist noted this option uses about 100 pounds per acre more urea than normal recommendations. An additional herbicide may cost $20 to $25 per acre. When nitrogen is applied into floodwater, the yields may be reduced by 20 to 25 bushels per acre, he says.

A few cases of grape colapsis (lespedeza worms) have been reported across the state on some of the younger rice, Wilson says. Farmers are using Icon to control the worms.

“The registration of Icon is likely not going to be renewed,” Wilson warns. “If an alternative product is not identified and obtained, this pest will likely cause significant problems in the future.”

Lamar James is an Extension communications specialist with the University of Arkansas.

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