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Rice has important role to play in herbicide-resistance fight

Throughout my career I have always had a tough time adjusting when the weed control season is over. The demands on my time are extremely heavy during the growing season and that is what I am geared to. When the season ends and the telephone abruptly goes quiet, I find myself thinking, “Why aren't people calling?”

Through the years when things would be particularly hectic during the busy season, I would remind myself that “I am not going to worry or feel useless when the phone stops ringing this fall.” For some reason though, I have never been able to make that adjustment smoothly.

I have been truly blessed to have a career working with farmers where I enjoy getting up everyday to do what I do.

I can tell you, working with farmers is a lot more fun when they feel they have a chance to make a profit and when they are looking forward to farming again next year.

When things get slow this time of year, I often look back through old articles to see what I wrote about at this time a year or two ago. This time last year the articles were pretty gloomy as we were coming off a tough year for a lot of reasons. Thankfully, farmers are in a much better mood.

It will be interesting to see what the farming landscape will look like in Arkansas a year from now. With soybean, corn and wheat prices all high, rice prices must catch up.

We need for rice to remain strong in the commodity mix for a lot of reasons. Rice is an excellent rotation crop for weed resistance management purposes and other than a little grain sorghum is the only non-Roundup Ready crop we grow. I believe rice is a key to holding back the spread of glyphosate-tolerant weeds.

Arkansas is the number one rice-producing state and a lot of pride has been taken in that through the years. We have a huge infrastructure in the state built around this crop. A lot of farmers have commented this year it was easy to grow corn, compared to rice, but most rice farmers want to grow rice.

I hope the price will strengthen to put rice back on an even playing field with other grains.

The university guys continue to document more and more examples of herbicide-resistant weeds. The latest example was barnyardgrass resistance to Command.

We are coming off one of the easiest weed control years I can remember in rice. We have excellent herbicides for the most part in rice. We also had excellent weather this year for herbicides to work well. However, we must protect the good technology that we have.

I do not see the sky falling on rice weed control, but there are certain realities. Barnyardgrass and the genus Echinochloa in general are extremely diverse in genetic makeup. Most of the Echinochloa we have is E. crusgalli. Even this one species is extremely diverse.

Every year I receive several grass plants with a note, “What is it?” These are normally from folks that know what barnyardgrass looks like. As it turns out in many cases, the plants sent in are barnyardgrass, but they are a biotype or ecotype that looks much different than the persons are used to seeing.

In addition, Echinochloa species other than E. crusgalli infest rice in other states and other countries. One tends to worry most about resistance development in plants with the most genetic diversity.

Between the barnyardgrass we typically have in Arkansas and barnyardgrass and closely related species in other states and other countries, resistant populations have been documented for every major grass herbicide family that we use. So while the sky may not be falling, there are things that need to happen to keep it from falling. I will start here next time.

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