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Subbing for rice consultant some of best real-life training

In last week's article I wrote that killing all escapes is the best way to make sure there is no barnyardgrass resistance development with Command. This is often easier said than done.

One of reason I push residual herbicides in rice is because it seems like once barnyardgrass gets up and growing, a lot of farmers are having a very difficult time killing it. I had that point driven home several times through direct experience last summer.

It has been interesting that in my consulting work for Riceland Foods members, most of my telephone calls come from crop consultants. When my contract with Riceland was first written, it included “Riceland Foods members and their crop consultants.” I thought it was interesting wording at the time because I never would have thought to include “and their crop consultants.”

I thought all of my calls would be from farmers, and it turns out most are from farmers' consultants. That just shows how much wisdom the Riceland guys had.

Anyway, early in the cropping season, I received one of those calls you hate to get. One of the consultants told me he had to have surgery. He asked if my wife, Tomilea, would scout two of his clients who farm reasonably close to us for about a month until he got back on his feet. She was reluctant, but that is the sort of thing where you just do not say no.

She had grand plans to scout the fields by horseback. Due to a combination of fat horses and a lot more fields than she expected, that plan died after about four fields the first day. For her to scout all of the fields on both farms in one day, I wound up helping her.

That turned out to be some of the best on-the-job training I have ever had. I have always respected the crop consultants that walk fields for a living, but I have a lot more respect for them now.

Throughout my career, I have looked at a lot of rice fields and I still do. Most have been where I meet the farmers and consultants and they show me what they want me to see. We look at the problem and make a decision. I go back home and usually do not see the field again.

It is entirely different to have to scout one carefully enough to be confident you are not missing anything, write the recommendation on paper and return the next week to see if it worked — or if they have even been able to get the treatment out yet.

Both of the farms we scouted had heavy barnyardgrass pressure. It was also a crazy year. When Tomilea started, about half the rice was ready for any final preflood treatments and the flood while the other half of the fields were just being planted.

In the fields ready for flood, the consultant had most of them in great shape. However, there were a few where something had gone wrong and there were barnyardgrass problems.

I know to hit emerged barnyardgrass early and hard. In most cases we just dropped the hammer with a full rate of Ricestar HT or Super Wham plus Facet. However, there were a few situations where we either backed up the rate or left a component out of the tank mix, thinking we could save the farmer a buck.

In every case it cost him money because we had to have him go back and do what I knew I should have done in the first place.

Once barnyardgrass gets up to about the three-leaf stage, which is small grass, it is easy to kill about 80 percent of it. However, it is often difficult to get the other 20 percent.

Remember when we used a quart of propanil per leaf and 3 quarts would smoke three-leaf grass on a hot day. That 20 percent is the part begging for new technology.

Next week I will discuss some more of our recommendations and some of the things that can go wrong with the best of recommendations.

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