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Prettiest stands sometimes not most productive

I recently received one of those telephone calls that make your day when you are in the business of making recommendations. Back in the spring after the Easter freeze, I wrote in this column about thin stands of rice and quoted what one of my mentors, former rice agronomist Bobby Huey, taught me: a thin stand of rice will fool you (in a good way) every time.

The farmer who called stated that he was trying to make decisions on which fields to keep and which ones to replant when that article came out. Based upon the article he decided to keep over 300 acres of really thin rice. He commented that the article really put his mind at ease, but the rice sure looked thin all year.

What really made my day was when he said his mind is really at ease now because the entire 300 acres average over 200 dry bushels per acre.

Decisions on whether or not to keep a stand can be difficult. Sometimes you look at a field and just know there is not enough rice there to keep. When in doubt, however, I always come down on the side of keeping the stand.

This is true whether it was thin to start with or whether it was thinned by weather, herbicide injury, or some other factor.

In thin stand situations, I try to talk the farmer out of seeding back into the existing stand. Seldom does that turn out to be a wise decision.

While my training is in how to kill weeds, through the years I have watched farmers who would get limited quantities of a new variety plant extremely low seeding rates and brag at the end of the year about how much rice that thin stand made. The next year, when the seed was readily available, the same guy would be back to seeding 3 bushels per acre and making 30 bushels less rice per acre.

There is the saying that “you can't make a crop until you get a stand.” While that is true, a lot of times the stand of any crop that looks the prettiest when it first comes out of the ground does not always make the highest yield.

Last week I made a comment about how impressive the LibertyLink soybean plots were in Bob Scott's pigweed control research. To me, this technology has the best chance of stepping up and being the most practical alternative to glyphosate in a weed resistance management program.

I have said for years that an excellent rotation for resistance management in cotton would be a rotation using Roundup Ready cotton, corn and LibertyLink cotton. In soybeans, a similar rotation of Roundup Ready soybeans, LibertyLink soybeans and rice, corn or grain sorghum would be excellent.

I believe the best alternatives to glyphosate are going to be broad spectrum over-the-top programs, and there aren't many choices. It is going to be very difficult for most growers to go back to a lot of tillage and multiple herbicide programs. Those programs simply take away too much of the efficiency gained with the Roundup Ready technology.

It will be interesting to see how quickly the LibertyLink technology moves forward in cotton and rice. It is in place in cotton, but a broader choice of varieties is needed.

It is my understanding that in soybeans most of the needed clearances are falling into place. Again, a broad choice of varieties with good agronomic characteristics and disease packages will be needed.

It is unfortunate that the LibertyLink situation occurred in rice last year. Let's hope that we do not have a problem with contamination in this year's crop. It is interesting how many farmers are asking if I think we will ever get LibertyLink rice. The amount of red rice showing up this year with the Clearfield acres being down has opened some eyes again that somehow new technology must move forward.

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