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Arkansas rice Field day reflects growers' concerns

The recent annual field day at the University of Arkansas Research and Extension Center, like this year's field day at the LSU Rice Station, was excellent.

As I looked around at the Stuttgart, Ark., field day, I wished there had been more farmers. I realize it is a busy time of the year with plenty of work to be done on the farm, but I am concerned that a lot of farmers were not there because they are discouraged and disgusted with the high production costs and low commodity prices.

A lot of people say there will be another big reduction in rice acres in 2007. I guess if you are struggling to survive this year, going to look at new rice technology may not be the most exciting thing to do.

Agriculture has always had ups and downs, and it sure seems like a lot more downs than ups in recent years. I believe, however, that rice farming is a way of life and the rice industry will survive.

It is probably the “university guy” still in me that always makes me think “every farmer should see this” when I am looking at new technology at field days. I used to feel that way about my own research plots. Things like the outcrossing work my wife, Tomilea, did could make a much bigger impact if every farmer had seen it in real life.

I also had some research plots through the years I am glad nobody else ever saw.

If you missed the field day, I hope it was because you were busy and not because you are disgusted with farming. This too shall pass.

There was a lot of interest at the field day in the new Arkansas Clearfield release, CL 171AR. A lot more information on it and the new LSU release CL 151 should be available this fall as variety trial data comes in. Hopefully both new releases will be a step up.

Rice Tec also has a new Clearfield hybrid, XP729, that it believes is a step up from XL8 and XL730.

The weed science group has a lot of plots at Stuttgart as usual. There continues to be a lot of work being done on outcrossing with Clearfield rice and red rice. We are getting by much better in the field at this point than I feared we might with the outcrossing issue. However, research still indicates we can have big problems down the road if we do not properly use this technology.

Once you develop Clearfield-tolerant red rice and the F1 generation reproduces, a lot of the plants in the resulting segregating population will be the same height as the Clearfield rice and impossible to detect and remove by hand.

Bob Scott talked about several new rice herbicide candidates, primarily for broadleaf weed control. It is encouraging that there is still some rice herbicide development taking place in the industry.

I had two thoughts as I walked down all of his plots. First, they were excellent. The weed science program at the University of Arkansas is in good hands. Second, knowing about all of the work that goes into them, I thought, “I sure do not miss doing this!”

We did not even do any private research plots this year. Tomilea and I made the decision early on that we would do no more in our consulting business than we could do ourselves. Something had to go this year and since my desire to carry a backpack sprayer is long gone, it was the research part of our work that went.

Bob discussed a new broadleaf/sedge herbicide called Strada that he said likely would be available in 2007. He described it as being very similar in activity to Permit. He also showed several other broadleaf herbicides in early stages of development.

Hang in there, it has to get better.

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