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As season nears: Rice growers seek answers, options

The situation in rice continues to change faster than most can keep up with. My telephone usually does not start ringing frequently until around mid-April. This year, however, it has already started.

Of course, all of the questions currently revolve around the LibertyLink rice situation as we have recently lost CL 131 and some CL XL730. I will not attempt to go into all of the questions in this article as some of them I cannot even answer.

I will say that I have turned my Riceland cell phone on a month earlier than normal and that number is (870) 674-7297. My personal cell phone is (501) 681-3413.

In all of my years in the business, I have not been through anything like this, and you must keep in mind that all of my training is in how to kill weeds. However, I am in contact with both the Arkansas State Plant Board personnel and my contacts at Riceland Foods and co-workers in the public and private sectors everytime something changes.

Feel free to call and I will do my best to answer your questions or refer you to someone else if necessary. If nothing else I will listen. This too shall pass.

I may be way off base, but my guess is that after all of the blame game is over, the frustrations are vented and we return to some view of normal, we will have learned that rice pollen moves farther than the best information previously indicated that it would.

I touched on one question in the last article and it is the one I continue to receive most. “What is going to happen when I plant regular rice behind Clearfield?”

While it has been obvious that some growers were following Clearfield rice with Clearfield rice, it has been done much more frequently than most thought. Many who are in a panic because they cannot get any Clearfield seed for this purpose apparently have not put a lot of thought into the fact that following Clearfield with Clearfield will result in red rice resistance and render the technology useless.

Whether the seed is unavailable or the technology is rendered useless by resistance, it results in a similar situation for the grower. Who knows where the Clearfield technology will go now? I certainly hope it survives, because it is desperately needed. It has suffered a setback, however, to say the least.

As for planting regular rice behind Clearfield, Ford's first three recommendations are ALTERNATE CROP, ALTERNATE CROP and ALTERNATE CROP. I will also restate from last week's article that “it is a crap shoot.”

One seed dealer/farmer recently told me that everyone who has tried it in his area in the past has failed miserably while in adjacent areas it has been done successfully. That defines crap shoot in the best way I know.

We have had a colder winter than in recent years and cold temperature slows Newpath degradation.

Most growers who say they are going to try it have zero-grade buckshot ground they say will not grow soybeans. Most of those fields are flooded or remain saturated all winter. That also slows Newpath degradation.

Getting the ground dried out, working it vigorously, delaying planting and increasing the seeding rates MAY increase chances of success.

It is obvious from the phone calls that some growers are going to roll the dice. My prediction is it will be successful in some fields, fail miserably in some fields and be everything else in between. Every individual has to decide how much risk he is willing to take and if he can stand to fail miserably with conventional rice versus what he can do with soybeans.

Bob Scott, University of Arkansas weed scientist, was at my house late one recent afternoon, and we each received probably our 10th phone call on this topic of the day. When we got off the phone, we immediately agreed that we would likely start off the year looking at a lot of sick rice!

I am, however, ready for this crop to be in the ground.

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