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Challenge of walking in rice consultant's shoes eye-opening

Last week, I wrote about some of my experiences as a real rice consultant for four weeks last season. It made some of the frustration calls I occasionally get from consultants more real-life.

For example, I may get a call from a consultant along the lines of, “I have had treatments on the books at the flying service for two weeks and they can't get the wind right to get them out.”

While it is nobody's fault, it is hard to look like you know what you are doing when the recommended treatments can not go out. Often a treatment window is only a couple of days before the weeds are too large or the soil moisture is gone.

Fortunately, Tomilea and I did not experience any two-week delays, but we did have some situations where the treatments or the flush water did not go on as quickly as we would have liked. Again it was nobody's fault. It was just the best that could be done under the circumstances.

However, it did get our attention when we pulled up to the field and either it had not been flushed behind a treatment we had recommended with a flush or the treatment had gone out five or so days after it was recommended and the grass had jumped considerably in size.

I wrote in the last article that when Tomilea and I started our four-week stand-in for our friend who had unexpected surgery, about half of the rice was ready to flood and the other half was being planted. Most of the fields ready to flood were in great shape, but there were a few interesting situations.

In one, the glyphosate was left out of the Command pre-emergence treatment in a no-till situation and the field had solid tillering crabgrass the first time we saw it. In addition, it was drought-stressed and the field was hard to flush quickly and hold a flood on.

We finally beat back the grass enough to make a crop in with two applications of Ricestar HT, which was the only option.

In another situation, I drove up to a field with solid 2-foot barnyardgrass and just-planted rice. Needless to say, I got pretty excited. From what I saw the first place I stopped, I did not see a need to look elsewhere in the field.

I thought we had a chance because the rice was planted in the clods and wouldn't come up until it was flushed or it rained. I called the farmer and recommended a gallon of glyphosate to be put on that day.

His reply was the rice was coming up on the other side of the field where the barnyardgrass stand was not as thick. I cannot even come close in this column to repeating the term I used to describe the situation he was in. I heard he re-named the farm to appropriately fit my description.

I wanted to spray it, flush it and see if there was enough rice that still had not emerged to get a stand. He chose to spray it, re-drill it and flush it, which was really the more certain way to go.

One thing that I never thought about in a real consultant's life is the challenge of finding all of the fields — at least the first couple of times. Both the farmers we scouted for had a lot of rice acres scattered over a rather large area. Even with maps and such we spent half of our time lost the first couple of weeks.

By the time we finished the fourth week, we had pretty much figured out the most efficient way to scout the farms. Even at that, it took Tomilea and I both scouting and Treva (our 10-year-old) organizing the paperwork for us from daylight to dark to get over it all in one day.

Of course, then on the “brag day,” when the real consultant came back to work and we rode the fields to show him how good we did, there was a surprise. We pulled up to a large field that I had been in in several places but had been too old and lazy to walk all the way across in the flood. I looked out in the middle and think, “What the heck is that?”

Well, it was 40 acres of heading barnyardgrass — precisely in the only spot in the field I had not been in. That humbled me pretty quickly. Fortunately we did not have a lot of those.

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