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Articles from 2017 In May

U.S. rice prices could be headed higher in 2017-18

Flexible irrigation pipe carries water to bays in rice field in Mississippi
Flexible irrigation pipe carries water to bays in rice field in Mississippi in May 2017.

U.S. rice producers could see higher prices for their 2017 crops – and it’s not mainly because of the losses due to the flooding that occurred in portions of Arkansas, Louisiana and California in late April and early May.

The die was already cast for lower rice supplies – and, thus, potentially higher U.S. prices – before unusually heavy rains in central Missouri caused rivers to leave their banks and flood nearly 200,000 acres in the northern Arkansas rice belt.

“The long-grain rice price forecast is up about $1 per hundredweight – around $9.70 to $10.70,” says Nathan Childs, who follows the U.S. and world rice markets for USDA’s Economic Research Service in Washington. “This is based on without factoring in the flooding that occurred in Missouri and Arkansas.”

Dr. Childs, an agricultural economist with the USDA-ERS, was one of the speakers for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Rice Outlook Webinar on May 25. (To view Dr. Childs’ presentation, click on

“You can see prices have been dropping, dropping for a while,” said Dr. Childs, referring to a chart showing season-average prices for long and medium grain rice going back to the 1990s. “But now we’re beginning to see tighter supplies in this country and in some other parts of the world.”

No shortage of rice

That doesn’t mean there will be shortages of rice anytime soon. Although global rice production is expected to decline 250,000 tons to 481.5 million tons on a milled basis, 2017-18 global rice supplies are projected to be a record 599.9 million tons, which would be up 2.6 million tons from 2016-17.

“I look at the all rice ending stocks, and, as I said earlier, we came off three years of abnormally high global ending stocks with high stocks-to-use ratios of 24 percent to 25 percent,” he said. “That’s too high.”

The stocks-to-use has come down and is projected to fall below 20 percent in the 2017-18 marketing year. “We have a lot of rice,” said Dr. Childs. “Historically, we've said around 13 or 14 percent was a more desirable long-term stocks-to-use ratio.”

The U.S. crop was already forecast to be down about 10 percent on a metric-ton basis in 2017 before the flooding began having an impact in the Mid-South, including the states of Arkansas and Louisiana, and in California.

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service was forecasting U.S. rice plantings would be down 17 percent in its March 31 Planting Intentions Report. (The forecast was for 2.63 million acres with most of the decline in the South and a slight decrease in California. Arkansas and Mississippi producers indicated the biggest declines.)

Prices in decline

“Prices at planting this year, say in March, were declining so U.S. long-grain rough prices were declining,” said Dr. Childs. “They have been rising in the last few weeks because weather is a big factor, but they were declining.” 

In contrast, prices for soybeans, the main alternative crop in the Delta, were rising at the time. “And in March, the U.S. carryout for the 2016-17 rice crop was the highest in more than 30 years. Now it's not as high now. We've dropped it a little.”

Meanwhile, total supplies are still projected the second highest on record. “So when farmers were looking at 2017-18 they saw declining long-grain prices, big carryout, big supplies but not record and higher prices for alternative crops.”

The weather and uncertainty in portions of the U.S. Rice Belt have altered that outlook somewhat, but the U.S. still faces record supplies in the rest of the world where it exports about half its rice crop. Dr. Childs reviewed the situation in a number of rice-producing countries.

“Egypt, not a huge producer but a major exporter of medium-grain rice, is down about 17 percent due to contraction of area, tight water supplies, more restrictions on area and also alternative crops that are more profitable,” he said.

Normal yield for India

India could be down 500,000 tons, which sounds like a lot but is actually closer to a normal yield for that country. “Although it should be down about a half million tons, it's still a bumper crop,” Dr. Childs said. 

South Korea will be down in area and yield. “Area has been dropping in South Korea for well over two decades,” he said.

In other countries where supplies may be down:

  • Madagascar is having bad weather – drought in one region, flooding in another, so the crop will be down.
  • Japan down with continued area decline that's probably been occurring more than 30 years.
  • Indonesia down slightly on smaller area but not much.
  • Brazil, the crop is projected down but the area is expected slightly higher. “They will have a better second crop and some pastureland might go to more rice,” he said. “We view a more normal yield than last year's yield, which was abnormally high.”
  • Burma down a little. A normal yield with no change in area.
  • Cuba, drought, weather problems in the Caribbean, down around 63,000 tons or a decrease of almost 15 percent.

Looking at areas with increases in production, Sri Lanka is expected to see recovery of lost yield. “It's a record crop in Sri Lanka, big recovery,” said Dr. Childs. “It had drought and flooding last year. One crop was impacted badly by drought and the other by flooding but Sri Lanka bounces back by 950,000 tons or 40.4 percent.”

Thailand is recovering from severe drought, which is helping restore Thailand to its position as the world's No. 1 or 2 exporting country and a large producer. Production is forecast to be up 900,000 tons or 4.8 percent.

China production up slightly

China’s production is up by 150,000 tons, a record, but by a small amount. “That's a minor increase,” he said. “It looks like a lot. But China is the largest grower in the world. It's just a tiny increase; more due to rounding.”

Paraguay’s crop is a record. “Paraguay has tripled production in the last three years,” said Dr. Childs. “Ten years ago I would not list Paraguay's production. But it's up 141,000 tons or 28 percent. It had a poor crop last year, but it's been on a decade-long expansion, and all of the expansion virtually is going into exports.”

Guyana’s crop is projected up 23 percent to a record. Guyana has also made tremendous increases in the last few years in production and pushing its exports out.

Colombia’s crop is recovering somewhat; Bangladesh’s will be a record, due to higher yields; Pakistan’s will be up a slight amount; and Cote d'Ivoire production is up. “Cote d'Ivoire is like Paraguay,” he said. “It's virtually tripled production in the last decade or less. We’re seeing lots of increases in production.”

Dr. Childs said Latin America remains the largest regional market for U.S. rice by far with Mexico accounting for a large portion of those sales. Mexico now purchases more than 800,000 tons of U.S. rice annually.

Low-growth area for U.S.

“Actually I would not see much growth in Latin America simply because we're extremely high right now in what we sell them now,” Dr. Childs noted. “We’re doing very well in sales to Mexico. It will remain the top market for U.S. rice.”

Dr. Childs confirmed that China is expected to export rice, much of it to Northeast Asia and some low quality rice into Africa. They ship some to North Korea and Japan, most of it medium-grain.

In response to questions from Bobby Coats, professor of economics with the University of Arkansas, and the moderator of the webinar, Dr. Childs said Iraq remains an “erratic” buyer of U.S. rice. (Dr. Coats also writes the weekly Market price considerations feature for

“It's almost impossible to predict,” he said. “Several times this year it was thought that the U.S. was going to sell. When the U.S. sold, it wasn't necessarily predicted. It's just a very difficult market to predict.

“I believe that they are certainly a price-conscious buyer. They are a big buyer, well over a million tons. The U.S. has sold almost none this year. Back in 2015-16, I believe, the U.S. was close to 150,000. It was a major buyer then. Since then, they have been virtually absent.”

 To read about Dr. Hardke’s comments, visit

Struggling corn crop lifts prices

Blue market background with white market indicators. LongQuattro/ThinkstockPhotos

A lower-than-expected crop rating had investors buying corn futures on Wednesday to push that market higher and near a one-week high. USDA late on Tuesday rated the crop 65% good to excellent, which fell short of the 68% many in the trade had expected.

The soybean market followed corn higher.

The wheat markets also advanced after USDA lowered the rating slightly for winter wheat and rated spring wheat at 62% good to excellent versus 79% a year ago.

Listen to the report using the audio link on this page.

Farm Futures Senior Editor Bob Burgdorfer comes to Penton Farm Progress with experience as a reporter covering grain markets and other global news with Reuters, Inc. A journalism graduate from Kansas State University, Bob has also worked at daily newspapers and Knight-Ridder as a commodity reporter, covering grains and livestock. He has earned five writing awards for his coverage of Mad Cow Disease, immigration issues and other international breaking news stories.

For more corn, wheat and soy news, commodity marketing recommendations and daily commodity charts, subscribe to Farm Futures' free e-newsletter, Farm Futures Daily, and keep up during the day with Farm Futures on Twitter.

Max Armstrong's Daily Updates


Michigan state legislators are on their way to relaxing gun regulations. A Democratic candidate for governor in Illinois says Indiana's gun laws are too lax, which makes it easier for criminals to access guns that cause loss of life in Chicago.

Democrats in Senate Ag Committee are protesting deep cuts to rural development in president's budget. The Democrats wrote letter to President Trump.

Millennials, we've been told, are more into experiences than material things. That's what a man and woman in North Dakota intend to do. They have put their businesses and pets in hands of friends and will travel the globe.

Court rules against FAA UAV registry

3 Are drones a hidden danger for ag pilots nbspEyes often light up at the thought of unmanned aerial vehicles UAVs ndash or drones assisting farm operations But for aerial applicators the UAVs pose just one more hazard they must avoid Read more Delta Farm Press

With more and more drones taking to the sky, the tussle continues over how best to regulate the machines and the Federal Aviation Agency’s (FAA) role in doing so. Adding to the confusion: a fresh ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit saying the FAA may not require a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) registry.

In a statement, the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA), says “agricultural aviators are deeply concerned about their ability to fly safely in air space where pilots could encounter any unmanned aircraft, be it commercial or otherwise. A valuable component of the FAA's drone registration program is the opportunity to educate the general population about the hazards of careless drone operations, and we believe that the FAA's drone registration program serves to protect everyone in the air and on land.”

What are aerial applicators’ options now?   

“There hasn’t been a lot of time to come up with a full game plan yet,” says Andrew Moore, NAA executive director. “Registering UAVs is something we support because it establishes some accountability for how these machines will be controlled. With the U.S. Court of Appeals having overturned the FAA’s doing that – saying the FAA didn’t have the authority to register, basically – there has to be another avenue.”

The NAAA isn’t the only aviation group that supported the registry. “Among those we were alongside are the Helicopter Association International, and Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, probably the largest UAV trade association. So, even commercial UAV interest supported the registry.

“We’re rather surprised by the development but I think the remedy will now be statutory change. Congress has previously limited the FAA’s ability to regulate hobby aircraft, which includes UAVs. With the FAA reauthorization – similar to the farm bill, which has to be negotiated every five years, or so – it’s an opportunity to revisit the registry. The current FAA reauthorization expires Sept. 30. I think there will be a push from aviation and UAV associations aimed at lawmakers for a new statute.”

Who was behind the suit in the Court of Appeals?

“It was a UAV hobbyist interest, a recreational drone pilot. He argued the FAA didn’t have the power to make him register because Congress said the agency couldn’t regulate model aircraft. And you could certainly make that interpretation, something the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed with.”

It’s now up to Congress “to make a clearer law or grant the FAA authority to regulate recreational UAVs. I believe in the last FAA reauthorization there is language that provides more relaxed leeway for recreational UAVs if they follow the Academy of Aeronautics guidelines with more authority for the FAA to regulate commercial UAVs.

“I think now you’ll see a lot of people, whether manned or unmanned UAV interest – especially commercial unmanned – asking Congress for a change. People understand such regulations need to be in place for our airspace. It just makes sense for commercial UAVs and users to have to register, for the ability for the (drones) to be tracked to enforce laws if they’re to have such access to airspace.”  

For agriculture, the main concerns are typically commercial interests. “Under the current FAA rules, if a farmer is using a UAV to monitor his crops, he’d have to get a license and registration.”

Is the Department of Homeland Security making more noise about this?

“They could be making noise and I don’t know about it. I do believe there’ll be an aviation advisory committee looking at developing procedures for both tracking and identification of UAVs. What’s clear with the court’s finding is Congress is going to have to step in.”

Beefs and Beliefs

Stop whining about agriculture budget cuts

Graph of government debt St. Louis Fed
Public debt from 1966 to 2016 grew dramatically as people decided their federal elected representatives could spend profligately and just bring home the bacon.

Oh, it's whining time again as government bureaucrats struggle with budgets in hard times.

The ultimate problem is caused by an entitlement attitude on the part of voters and their representatives alike, and nowhere is this more plain than in agriculture.

The latest budget suggestions from the President's office suggest some cuts to agricultural "programs" such as subsidized crop insurance, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth is loud and long.

In my home state, Oklahoma, which depends on oil and gas and agriculture for most of its state government revenues, there is more wailing. It's particularly loud from those public servants in education, which received only a 1.8% cut, despite a 12% shortfall of roughly $800 million in a $6.8 billion annual budget.

This is all voter-based whining, mind you.

The most significant difference I can see between the situations is the state has a balanced-budget requirement, while the federal government does not. This means where the federal government is concerned, the voters can never get enough of other people's money, and there is no end to it.

I've harped on this before, but it seems to never change. As voters, we need to grow up and realize we're contributing to the problem -- indeed causing it -- by demanding government handouts, which the government must ultimately take by coercion from other people. This is in fact the origin of government's power.

You'll rarely hear this from your elected representatives, however. They take their leadership from you, another fact they deny by calling themselves "leaders."

Here's an example of that, again from my home state. Legislators plan to make up about half the "shorfall" between what they budgeted and what it appears they will have by raising taxes. One of those is called the gross production tax (GPT) on oil and natural gas. It was for many years set at 7%, then lowered in 1994 in the early days of lateral well drilling to 1% to help exploration companies with the extreme financial risks of drilling these expensive wells. In 2014 it was raised to 2%, and this year they plan to raise it further. That's the background.

The story is that one state representative named David Perryman-D wrote an article in which he said, "Oklahoma’s lucrative tax breaks to the industry cost upwards of $300 million per year."

Think about those words ...

Tax breaks don't cost anything unless you think someone else's money belongs to you.

I suggest a more honest appraisal would be that Perryman believes the oil industry can afford to pay higher GPT and wants to charge that rate. Neither he, nor anyone else who is not actually earning that money, bearing any costs from whatever tax rate is being charged. Put another way, taxes cost only those being taxed.

But as agriculturists, let's briefly examine the effects (beyond handing immense power to bureaucrats) of one of President Trump's proposed budget cuts. His team suggests cuts to the crop insurance subsidy program. This should set most beef producers cheering. The crop insurance subsidy system is an indirect subsidy clearly giving grain producers an advantage over beef producers in the race for land. Since land is the most limiting resource for every agricultural producer who raises crops or beef cattle, this is clearly an unfair advantage. Several studies on crop subsidies and on the ethanol subsidies over the years have clearly shown a significant portion, perhaps a majority, of the money paid as subsidy ultimately flows  back down the chain to the owners of the most limiting resource -- land. In turn, that drives up land prices. Yet who pays for that subsidy? All taxpayers, including profitable beef operations.

Of course, the Trump budget only suggests caps on these subsidies, not elimination, so the industry howling seems to me particularly unwarranted. Yet as we should all understand by now, handouts are deemed an entitlement by those who receive them. They will make every illogical argument about why they "need" these things.

On the flip side, the only negative for most beef producers I can see is the price of grains and related feeds could rise a bit, which would likely dampen bids for feeder cattle.

In the end, we'd all be better off without the government maligning so many markets with social engineering via the tax code or direct subsidies.

In this video, the late economist Milton Freidman talks about these issues.


9 Steps to calibrating your sprayer

EPA Decision on Chlorpyrofis
Agricultural vehicle spraying chemicals on a corn field

By Erdal Ozkan

Hopefully you have calibrated your sprayer during early spring, before the busy spring activities have started. There is still plenty of spraying to be done in months ahead of us. So, if you have not calibrated your sprayer yet, take care of this very important task if you want to effectively protect your crops against weeds, insects and diseases.

One can determine if the chemicals are applied at the proper rate, only by carefully calibrating the sprayer. While applying too little pesticide may result in ineffective pest control, too much pesticide wastes money, may damage the crop and increases the potential risk of contaminating ground water and environment. The primary goal with calibration is to determine the actual rate of application in gallons per acre, then to make adjustments if the difference between the actual rate and the intended rate is greater or less than 5% of the intended rate. This is a recommended guideline by USEPA and USDA.

Before starting calibration, make sure you have a good set of nozzles on the sprayer. Nozzles wear off through extended use causing over application, or some nozzles are plugged. Clean all the plugged nozzles. Check the output of all the nozzles for a given length of time at a given spray pressure. Compare output from each nozzle’s output with the expected output shown in the nozzle catalog for that nozzle at the same pressure. Replace the nozzles showing an output error of more than 10% of the output of the new nozzle. Once you do this, now you are ready to calibrate your sprayer.

There are several ways to calibrate a sprayer. Regardless of which method you choose, it usually doesn’t take more than 30 minutes, and only three things are needed: a timer (or watch or smart phones) showing seconds, a measuring tape, and a jar graduated in ounces. Here, I will describe perhaps the easiest of all the methods to determine the actual application rate of a sprayer for broadcast applications:

1. Fill the sprayer tank (at least half full) with water.

2.Run the sprayer, inspect it for leaks, and make sure all vital parts function properly.

3.Measure the distance in inches between the nozzles.

4.Measure an appropriate travel distance in the field based on this nozzle spacing. The appropriate distances for different nozzle spacing is as follows: 408 ft for a 10-inch spacing, 272 ft for a 15-inch spacing, 204 ft for 20-inch spacing, 136 feet for a 30-inch spacing, and 102 feet for a 40-inch spacing. (See extension publication FABE-520 for travel distances for other spacings, and for an explanation for selection of these specific travel distances for given nozzle spacing:

5.Drive through the measured distance in the field at your normal spraying speed, and record the travel time in seconds. Repeat this procedure and average the two measurements.

6.With the sprayer parked, run the sprayer at the same pressure level and catch the output from each nozzle in a measuring jar for the travel time required in step 5 above.

7.Calculate the average nozzle output by adding the individual outputs and then dividing by the number of nozzles tested. The final average nozzle output in ounces you get is equal to the application rate in gallons per acre. For example, if you catch 15 ounces from a set of nozzles, the actual application rate of the sprayer is equal to 15 gallons per acre.

8.Compare the actual application rate with the recommended or intended rate. If the actual rate is more than 5 percent higher or lower than the recommended or intended rate, you must make adjustments in either spray pressure or travel speed or in both. For example, to increase the flow rate you will need to either slow down, or increase the spray pressure. The opposite is true when you need to reduce application rate. As you make these changes stay within proper and safe operating condition of the sprayer. Remember increased pressure will result in increasing the number of small, drift-prone droplets. Using the trial-and error method to eventually reach the intended application rate takes some time. If you follow the equations given in Extension Publication FABE-520 on Calibration you can find optimum travel speed and pressure much faster.

9.Recalibrate the sprayer (repeat steps 5-8 above) until the recommended application error of +5% or less is achieved.

Don’t forget one very important thing while calibrating, and especially operating a sprayer: safety. Although clean water is used during calibration, you should still protect yourself from getting in contact with pesticides inside or outside sprayer equipment. Wear personal protective equipment, at least gloves and goggles. Happy spraying!


Originally published by Ohio State University. 

Animal Health Notebook

We need more grazing education and adoption

People talking in a pasture Alan Newport
Our industry needs to spend more energy learning about grazing management and even more energy applying that knowledge.

I pay subscriptions annually for several farm/ranch publications and always find things to argue about in them.

One of those comes from Joel McNair, who publishes a hard copy monthly paper that he calls GRAZE. Like most good editors he gets to travel and visit lots of farms/ranches. He writes editorials and invites freedom of differing views. Most of us like at least a good quantity of contention and debate. Often we are a little closer together than we realize.

Recently McNair wrote about what we’ve learned about grazing, mostly from a dairy standpoint. Remember that most dairymen love steering wheels and concrete and buildings and material handling.

A real important issue and point that Joel acknowledges is the imbalance of forage protein-to-energy ratios in most dairy pastures. The forage is high in protein (much of which is NPN) and low in energy. I think he fails to understand the real underlying problem. The real issue is the failure to study, learn and move toward the natural model, which is more balanced, on the average.

Immature forage mixed with mature forage delivers health and production. The more diverse the plants, the better the results. The higher the percentage of C4 (warm-season) plants, up to about 75%, the better the response.

The key to early spring grazing is residual growth from the previous growing season with four to eight inches of C3 (cool-season) growth in the understory. Clean farming based on pretty, and “gettin' it all” will not work and never have. Such management has no place in the natural model. Ditto the same management that emphasizes mono-, bi-, tri-cultures of plants; the cover crops with the most different seed species have the most success. Eight is better than four, 12 is better than eight, 20 is better than 12, and fifty is best of all. Nature often delivers as many as 150 plant species annually on an acre of ground.

In reference to seed heads and cattle production and grazing, the natural model yields the highest gains during periods when dry matter consumption of immature seeds is in the 10-20% range. Huge plant diversity extends this window drastically. Extremely good production of milk and finishing is rather simple. High-density grazing with complete recovery and huge plant diversity in the pasture opens the quality window and keeps it open longer. C4 plants are more health promoting to all herbivores and most microbes that I am aware of.

Quality hay may become a health necessity when forage and soil health are lacking. Cool-season grasses do not build soil health and certainly have few positive effects in soil horizons below six inches. Cool-season dominance yields the summer slump, which can easily extend well into fall.

Grazing and hay production most always antagonize each other. Mixing the material handling business and the grazing business reduces the profitability of both enterprises. A few producers have completely separated the two and it has become a no-brainer. Quality hay production is a mining operation that takes out soil health and quality plants in one swoop. The result is to send more money to town or down the hill to the creek.

I totally agree with the aforementioned McNair that hopefully we will understand much more about the workings of soil biology and plant and animal health and their close interrelationships in another 10 years. We have certainly gained a bunch of knowledge in the past decade. The problem is that we have been moving at a snail’s pace on the adaptive side.


The Grazier's Gazette

Holistic probably isn't what you think

group discussion on a ranch Alan Newport
To think holistically means in decision-making you consider all the members of your managed community, all people, all animals, all plants, all soil biology, and so forth.

Even though the term "holistic management" has been in common use in agricultural circles for several decades, some people are still uncomfortable with the phrase.

People involved with agricultural education or research seem particularly reluctant to mention the word holistic.

This is unfortunate because "holistic" is a precise term defining a type of management that is sorely needed in modern agriculture; indeed needed in all human endeavors, from developing government policy to rearing children.

Holistic means all-inclusive.

As applied to farm and ranch management, it means that all parts of the soil-plant-animal-wealth-human complex we call a farm or ranch will be considered when designing management practices. To achieve success, this is a necessity because every member of the complex affects every other member, which is in turn affected by all other members. As the old gospel song says, "The head bone is connected to the neck bone." Right down to the smallest toe bone. Sadly, this fact is seldom recognized by conventional agriculture. We don't have a weed problem or a disease problem or a predator problem, we have a management problem. It is impossible to devise a management practice that will affect only weeds or only horn flies.

Reducing damage from cotton root rot, from grasshoppers, or from coyotes becomes much easier if we can change our focus from killing the pest to changing the conditions that allow populations of these (and other) organisms to grow to the point that they become problematic. One hundred rag weed plants per acre (or woolly croton or leafy splurge or knap weed) is probably beneficial rather than harmful; it is only when these plants are present in large numbers that we see problems.

Every organism, from the smallest microbe to human beings, has needs and the abilities to fulfill these needs that are different from those of even close relatives. When many different kinds of organisms are present (known as biodiversity), available resources  such as sunshine, moisture, mineral nutrients and space, will be fully but not over-utilized, and no one type of organism will develop sufficient numbers to reach pest status. This stability comes about not from competition but rather from the uncountable multitudes of mutually beneficial relationships that form between organisms of all types.

It is only when these relationships are destroyed by outside influences such as tillage, abusive grazing or poisons, that nature calls forth "invasive" species better suited to the degraded growing conditions in an effort to heal the ecological processes (water cycle, nutrient cycles, energy flow, and biological succession) and to restore stability.

Our reaction to crises, ranging from weed explosions to predator losses, has traditionally been to kill the offending organisms as rapidly as possible. This would seem to be a logical approach but usually, after an apparently successful initial result, it brings about a further reduction in biodiversity and sets the stage for future problems. A more logical approach is to change the conditions that have allowed the pest species to become problematic. Weeds do not "invade," they only increase where growing conditions are favorable to their existence. (Poor grazing management is such a condition.) Weeds do not cause range degradation; range degradation causes weeds. 

Most people can readily understand how good grazing management can improve the health and productivity of both the land and the animals feeding on the land. Understanding the role of predators and parasites is not quite as straightforward. Understanding of the relationships between prey, predators and the whole ecological system is found in the meaning of holism.

Nothing occurs in a vacuum. In the natural world, if predators become too numerous, prey becomes scarce, predator nutrition declines and predator numbers drop. If predator numbers decline, prey is more plentiful and predator litter size and pup survival will go up.

There is not room here to go into this in great detail, but if you are interested go to my website at and look under Articles for "Diary of a Serial Killer (Retired)" for a more complete explanation.

We are all prone to looking for the silver bullet that will solve our management problems. It does not exist. The closest we can come is to try to manage to promote the health of the entire soil-plant-animal-wealth-human complex we call a farm or ranch using holistic management. This is completely feasible and can solve many problems before they occur.

Don't be afraid of the term; it simply means management that considers all factors.


Rice: Nitrogen fertilization in uncertain times

Rice seedlings Delta Farm Press

After a big rain across most of the Delta, another round on the way Thursday and Friday, here’s the first thing you need to do if you haven’t already: run an up-to-date DD50 on your fields ( Before you jump to conclusions on your field being too early or late to fertilize and flood, put the DD50 data behind that decision.

Now that we know where you stand let’s talk options. Much of the rice out there was planted early and needs to go to flood. However, you should wait until the date of ‘Final recommended time to apply preflood N if early N delayed’ found in the DD50 printout before you do anything drastic. Once you reach this date though, it’s time to make a move.

Repeating: if you have yet to reach this date, DO NOT make unnecessary or inefficient N applications, you still have time.

Now for those with fields that are out of time. If you have passed the Final Recommended Time, let’s talk. Have a flooded field right now from the rain? Roll up the gates and hold the water. Start spoonfeeding 100 lbs urea every 7 days – no more than 5 total applications – but evaluate closely after the 4th app to see if the 5th is even needed.

Do you think you can get dried up before the rain forecast on Thursday and Friday? Then you’ll want to go through the more usual scenarios below.

As a general reminder, here are the preferred management guidelines for preflood N:

In order of preference, based on yield response and N efficiency, here are options for applying preflood N based on field situations:

1. Field is dry: Apply NBPT-treated urea onto dry soil and establish the permanent flood in a timely manner to incorporate N below the soil surface. If you have any time to spare, it is always best to apply preflood N onto dry soil – applications onto muddy soil or into standing water are far less favorable and much less efficient methods of N fertilization.

2. Field is muddy: Apply NBPT-treated urea onto muddy soil and attempt to let the soil dry if you have time. If a significant rainfall event occurs (~0.5 in or more) to re-wet the field then begin flooding; otherwise let the soil dry before establishing the flood. If you’re applying N to mud we do not know exactly how much N will be lost, but increasing the N rate by ~ 20 lbs N would be wise to offset losses. This increase may or may not provide much benefit depending on your exact soil and weather conditions, but it’s less likely to hurt in this case. Watch the crop closely and apply extra N if a deficiency occurs.

3. Field has standing water: Get the water off the field if at all possible (if time allows). If you do not have time to get the water off and let the soil dry, then hold the water and “spoon-feed” N into the flood in small quantities every 5-7 days for 4-5 weeks is the best option – lean toward every 7 days. A small quantity means 45 lbs N per acre (100 lbs urea per acre). If you have a short time to internode elongation, maybe applying N for 3 weeks at 45, 60, and 60 lbs N per acre will be better but still apply a midseason shot of 45 lbs N per acre in addition. Do not, for any reason, apply the entire recommended preflood N rate in one application into standing water.

Preferred “worst-case” management: As rice reaches the end of the N application window according to the DD50 program, apply N treated with NBPT to muddy/wet soil and attempt to let the soil dry out underneath the applied N – if a significant rainfall occurs, start flooding. Realize that some N is lost in this case and be prepared to monitor the crop closely and apply additional N later if the rice looks like it needs it.

Fields unable to hold a flood (levees and gates unfinished or damaged): Apply a small amount of N and wait for the soil to dry or receive upcoming rainfall. If heavy rain is expected and movement is a concern, ammonium sulfate should be used for this application; otherwise, apply urea. If conditions are still not dry enough to flood the field in a week, subsequent N applications will be needed in the same manner until a flood can be established. At the point the flood can be established, apply any remaining N requirements to the dry soil and flood.

When preflood N is applied onto dry soil to rice at the 4- to 5-leaf stage and a flood is applied timely, plants take up at least 60% of the total N applied over the course of 3 weeks (10% week 1, 20% week 2, 30% week 3). In general the period from the optimum time to apply preflood N until internode elongation (IE) is about 3 weeks, but from the final recommended application time to IE is about 2 weeks. However, these timings are based on plant development when rice has received timely N fertilization and flooding – delaying these causes rice to develop more slowly. Keep in mind that we can only make up a small amount of yield with N applied at midseason.

Previous research has shown that N applied onto dry soil has the most yield benefit. Applying urea onto muddy soil can result in a 20% yield loss. However, applying ammonium sulfate or urea + NBPT onto muddy soil and letting the soil dry can reduce the yield loss to only 10%. In this research, N was applied just prior to permanent flood at the 4- to 5-leaf stage.

Past the 4- to 5-leaf stage, potential yield losses could become more dramatic. However, many factors influence how much flexibility we have in our N fertilization timing, including cultivar, length of maturity, native soil N, soil type, etc. If native soil N is high, then the effect is reduced. If it is a longer season cultivar then there is a greater window before midseason. In any case don’t let it get too late before applying N. Use of the DD50 Rice Management Program can help to time management decisions in these situations (