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Difficult choices: Stressed grass problem weed in rice

Most calls about rice weed control and field visits the past couple of weeks have involved drought-stressed grass. I have walked out of a lot of fields and hung up from a lot of telephone calls wondering if I made the correct recommendation.

Dealing with big grass that is drought-stressed, complicated by flush and flood issues, is about as tough as weed control decisions get.

I have looked at no grown-up messes where Command was used. Some Command fields have more grass than normal if they were not flushed, but even those are in much better shape than fields that did not receive Command.

High fuel costs and lack of rainfall have made flushing expensive a lot of farmers have not flushed. Many farmers have spent a lot of money flushing, and a lot of farmers have cost themselves a lot of money or gotten themselves into a lot of messes by not flushing.

Right now the farmer stress level, disgust level or frustration level (sometimes all of those) is higher than I can ever remember. It is frustrating for a consultant to have to go into a field and recommend $50 or 60 worth of herbicides to a farmer who already is stressed out over the whole situation.

It is more frustrating to leave not knowing for sure the slug of stuff you just recommended is even going to work if he puts it out.

It has been that kind of a spring. It will get better and thank goodness there are a lot of fields in really good shape, too.

When the situation comes down to tillering, drought-stressed grass and the field is ready to flood, my choices usually are to either apply 0.5 pound of Facet per acre and roll the flood right behind it, or flood first and apply either Clincher or Facet. Facet is often my choice if the farmer is not sure he can hold a flood or if he is going to turn around and drain for straighthead.

Where Facet-resistant grass is a possibility, nearby susceptible crops complicate matters, or the grass includes sprangletop, I turn to Clincher.

Grower preference also enters into the picture. I almost always recommend waiting until after flooding if it is uncertain there will be enough grass to justify spraying.

A lot of fields that were scheduled to receive preflood treatments if rainfall occurred were flooded up with the intent of applying Clincher. This is going to make demand for this herbicide high. Keys to making Clincher work well are: apply the treatment as soon as possible after the grass comes through the water, use the 15-ounce rate with a quart of crop oil, and do not let the field get dry. Try to have the flood as shallow as possible when the application is made and then raise the flood right back up. There are also questions about Clincher supply. I don't know what the supply is, but it always seems to run out.

Facet at 0.5 pound per acre with crop oil is also a good postflood treatment for barnyardgrass and broadleaf signalgrass. If the grass is only barnyardgrass, Regiment can be an option. If it is only sprangletop, Ricestar HT is a good postflood treatment. If Clincher becomes unavailable, the 24-ounce rate of Ricestar HT applied postflood is not a bad all-around treatment. It has not been as good when applied postflood as Clincher, but it is good enough to serve as a backup plan. You can also heat it up with some Facet if the situation is bad enough.

Some fields are in really good shape, but in a lot of other situations, it has turned into a very expensive weed control year when farmers need just the opposite. However, when you put the combine in the field, the most expensive part of the weed control program will be the weeds you did not control. Hang in there; it will get better.

Ford Baldwin, Practical Weed Consultants. e-mail: [email protected].

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