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Rice weed control technology

After this article, I’ll let you rest awhile before I pound you again about weed resistance issues in rice.

I have tried to show how dated most of our rice herbicides are. I have also tried to illustrate some of the disturbing trends that I and others are observing in the field.

While I am an optimist, I am extremely concerned that if technology does not advance in rice, we could begin to see an acreage shift to crops with better weed control technology.

We are not there yet. Acreage is predicted to increase significantly in 2009. I have not heard a farmer say, “I am not going to plant a field because I can not control the weeds in it or I can not afford to control the weeds in it.”

However, as weed control becomes more difficult and expensive in rice, I will predict that day will come unless weed control technology advances. I hope I am wrong. I would much rather have you tell me I missed that one by a country mile in three years than to be helping you try to solve weed problems we do not have answers for.

One type of new technology could be novel new conventional herbicide chemistry. I do not see a lot happening there in any crop, and rice herbicides come far down the line behind corn and soybean herbicides.

Most of the rice herbicides we have now were either initially screened in other crops and found their way to rice or were first registered in other crops and later in rice. A few are registered only in rice, but they are kissing cousins to herbicides registered in other crops. It is rare that a rice-only herbicide “just happens.”

There are a few “me too” new herbicide candidates being looked at in rice, but none have impressed the weed scientists I talk to.

In addition, a novel new herbicide will have to be an impact player with a different mode of action than our current herbicides. While anything is possible, I do not see this happening in the foreseeable future.

Another area of new technology could be in mutation breeding, which is how Clearfield rice was developed. It is highly unlikely we will see another significant breakthrough in that area anytime soon — if we ever do.

That essentially leaves the area of genetically modified crops as the other area where breakthroughs could occur. Right now the market has not accepted genetically modified rice. However, that area is where the technology breakthroughs have come from in other crops, and I think this creates a dilemma for the rice industry.

If weed control technology continues to advance in other crops, it could result in an acreage shift over time to those crops as weed control becomes more difficult in rice.

I have personally worked with both Roundup Ready rice and LibertyLink rice. Both technologies offer superior weed control to the programs currently available.

Roundup Ready rice was available one year in research programs and has not been seen again. I have no idea if Monsanto has any long-term plans for this technology.

LibertyLink rice could be ready to go in relatively short order if market acceptance was there.

It is obvious that GMO rice is moving forward in some other countries. The trend will continue as it becomes more difficult to feed the world. This could give us a short-term advantage if we have GMO-free rice. However it may also box in the weed scientists who the industry will turn to for answers to weed issues in our country.

I fully support any decisions the rice industry must make to be able to market our crop. We cannot sell rice if people will not buy it. However, we also cannot sell rice if we cannot grow it.

Roundup Ready crops and Clearfield rice have proven farmers will make crop management decisions based upon herbicide options. If rice is to keep pace with the crops it must compete with for acres, weed control technology will need to keep pace as well.

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TAGS: Rice
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