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Serving: Central

Most due to glyphosate: Spray drift injures Arkansas rice

The past couple of weeks have been very frustrating. Weed control was the best I had seen going to flood. We went through a period of cool, wet weather that presented some problems of its own, but most of those have past. I wrote last week about some injury problems with Newpath on the Clearfield hybrids — hopefully most of those are in the process of being worked through.

While I was running the roads looking at the Newpath/hybrid fields, I could not help notice spray rigs running in 20 to 30 mph winds. When I got in for the weekend a week ago, I told my wife, “My drift complaints will start this coming week.” Well they have and it is a very frustrating situation.

I have been in areas where almost every rice field has a drift pattern in it. In some situations it is Newpath, but in far more situations, it is glyphosate. In the traditional rice-growing areas of the state, glyphosate drift cases are more isolated.

There are always going to be some fields where it just happens. These often get worked out among neighbors. We still have a lot of situations where Clearfield rice is surrounded by conventional rice. When this happens, some conventional rice normally winds up getting some Newpath on it. In most cases, however, these are adjacent fields and it is pretty obvious where it came from, and these often get worked out among neighbors.

The real frustrating situations I have been involved with have occurred in areas of the state where cotton is intercropped with rice. In these areas, rice is essentially the only non-Roundup Ready crop being grown.

I have been out on calls where upon arrival to the farm, several other farmers would be waiting on me. In some of these visits, I could not find a rice field that did not have a glyphosate drift problem in it. Some of these were compounded by being a Clearfield hybrid field and I am trying to separate out what is Newpath injury and what is glyphosate drift.

Those create situations for parties involved to point fingers at each other, leaving the farmer holding the bag. In many of the situations there were so many potential sources from both air and ground applications that it will be impossible to determine the source. This again leaves the affected farmer holding the bag.

I'll tell you how bad one situation was. The farmer and I were looking at his fields, and I was afraid he was going to cry. I knew if he did that I would so I jokingly asked if he were a “drinking man.” He said, “Yes, as a matter of fact I have a couple of warm ones in the back.” His fields looked so bad they made a hot beer actually taste good!

I do not claim to have all the answers. To date the herbicide manufacturers have had to answer to nobody on this issue. Perhaps there are formulation changes that could help. That might not result in a glyphosate product that is cheaper than beer or bottled water as it is now.

I know there likely will be no formulation you can get by with hanging up in a temperature inversion with aircraft sprayers. Likewise there is no formulation that can be sprayed by ground rigs in 20 to 30 mph winds. It is amazing how many applicators think if they have air induction nozzles they are bulletproof.

I do not like to see one group of farmers pitted against another. Some grow a combination of all crops. However, glyphosate drift on rice is a festering issue and unless we can figure out some commonsense solutions, I am concerned that in some parts of the state rice production will not sustainable.

Ford Baldwin, Practical Weed Consultants. e-mail:

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