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Broken record or not

I hate to keep sounding like a broken record saying “kill the grass” in rice. However, if I can just head off a few salvage calls in June, it will be worth it. The constant comment I'm hearing is “my Command has failed” or “my Command just wasn't any good this year.”

Last year, we had the cleanest rice crop I have seen and, of course, I tried to take all of the credit. We are set up to have a mess this year, so perhaps I should take the blame.

In reality, the performance of Command the past several years, both in research and in the field, has far exceeded my expectations. The activity last year was unbelievable and was a near miracle for many growers.

Keep in mind, however, Command is a pre-emergence herbicide, and pre-emergence herbicides take moisture to make them work. Command requires less moisture than most soil applied herbicides but it does take some.

Droughts in April simply do not happen. However, I received somewhere between 0.4 inch and 0.6 inch that came in two showers in April. One of the showers was before planting. In talking to others, I may have been one of the lucky ones.

In spite of this, most folks had enough moisture to get a stand of rice. Because of this many simply refused to flush until it was too late from a weed control standpoint.

This is not meant as a criticism as I always try to avoid that. Many would say, “Doc, you just don't understand - I'm trying to cut costs, trying to get through planting, afraid I'm going to run out of water, etc.” I will say, however, that rice and water go together.

Beginning with Facet and continuing with Command, we have shifted the bulk of our herbicide inputs to soil residual herbicides. Soil residual herbicides take water to activate them and to keep them active. When it doesn't happen, it means re-treatment. When the “grass breakthrough” calls started coming in early April, my standard response was “flush.”

Many told me they'd re-treat before they'd flush. The problem with that is you often have drought stressed grass for the postemergence herbicide and wind up flushing anyway.

Hindsight is always 20-20 and it's easy for me to sit here and scold you over what should have been done. Everyone, including myself, kept thinking, “this is April, it's going to rain.”

Command was never a super impressive herbicide in dryland crops. It has been the normal high moisture situation in rice that has made it so active. The term “reach-back” after moisture is sort of like the term “suppression” it sounds a lot better than it is. Most of the grass that comes through it isn't going to die.

A cheap grass control year for most is out the window. Trying to get by with one postemergence application behind Command is also out the window for many. The thing now is just to move on and do what it takes to clean things up before the flood.

The number of calls on “how big a grass can I kill with Ricestar” is scary. I'm glad we have it. However, this is the first year in the field after a very rapid paced development program. I hope there won't be a lot of disappointment with it.

High rates of Facet with propanil are still the best on big barnyardgrass and broadleaf signalgrass. If, for whatever reason, the barnyardgrass isn't under control by flooding, Ordram right after the flood.

The heading barnyardgrass calls in June are our most frustrating. I received very few last year. However, unless we turn things around in a hurry, I will this year.

Ford Baldwin is an Arkansas Extension weed scientist.

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