Double-crop scenarios: some do's and don'ts

Farmers can achieve respectable economic returns when planting a rice hybrid in June — as either a double-crop option after wheat or when forced into a late-planting situation, according to University of Arkansas studies.

One UA study compared returns for a June-planted rice hybrid (RiceTec's XL-7) and several soybean yield scenarios. Over two years, late-planted rice averaged 126 bushels per acre with net returns of $132.40 — at a rice price of $3.50. A 35-bushel soybean yield, which might be achieved for double-cropped beans, would provide only $22.50 in net return, at a soybean price of $5.90 per bushel.

The planting dates for the study were June 21, 2001, and June 28, 2002. Locations for the study were in Arkansas, Missouri and Mississippi. LDPs were included when calculating returns.

The study also compared rice hybrid yields under several double-cropping scenarios. A rice-wheat-rice rotation with enhanced fertility (150-60-90) and conventional tillage produced double-cropped hybrid rice yields of 163 bushels per acre. No-till rice with standard fertility (100-40-60) produced the lowest yields of 126 bushels per acre.

The highest-yielding cropping system for rice was a no-till rice-wheat-soybeans-wheat-rice approach with standard fertility which yielded an average of 181 bushels per acre.

According to Merle Anders, cropping systems agronomist at the University of Arkansas, one advantage for a late-planted rice hybrid is vigor. “You're planting at a time when it's very hot. This could be coincidental, but we had less problem with blanking because of heat in the hybrids versus varietal rice.”

In addition, “XL-7 is a short duration hybrid. It's worked out well. In a lot of cases, we've harvested it and have gone back with wheat. But you have to get it out of the field very quickly. We've also had good luck with no-till right after the wheat.”

Anders is still gathering data on a comprehensive economic analysis of the various cropping systems. Rice yields have improved significantly over the course of the study, especially since the move to hybrids, “but the biggest problem has been the wheat (wet fall weather), not the rice.”

Growers considering a rice-after-wheat system should base their decisions not on rice yields, but how rice compares to soybeans after wheat, according to Anders. “Your competition is soybeans. Can you make more money with rice than you can with soybeans? I would accept that rice yields will normally be lower than if they were planted at a normal planting time. But even with irrigation, you rarely get high yields with double-cropped soybeans.”

According to Jim Stroike, RiceTec's vice president, technical business development, “The yield potential of a rice hybrid is so much greater than varietal rice, so you've raised the yield bar even at a later planting.

Planting rice after wheat can be tricky, noted Anders. He recommends these steps:

  • Avoid late-harvested wheat fields.
  • Tillage should be dictated by water supply, field condition and available equipment.
  • Wheat fields that are rutted or compacted from wheat harvest will require tillage, but keep to a minimum.
  • Use available chopper/spreaders on combines to distribute straw the width of combine.
  • If you no-till or minimum-till, do not roll the wheat stubble; no-till planting is much easier in standing stubble.
  • All P and K needs to be applied prior to planting rice. Use same rates you would with a full-season rice crop.
  • Studies show that application of all, or nearly all, N prior to flooding is the best, because the plants will grow much faster during this time.
  • XL-7 is recommended to be planted at 30 pounds per acre.
  • If seedbed is rough, a slight increase in seeding rate may be warranted.
  • XL-7 has excellent disease package, but during late plantings the disease pressure is normally much lower. Hybrids are more tolerant to heat, thus resulting in less blanking.
  • Weevils can be a problem with late plantings. Either Icon-treated seed or Karate after plant emergence may be necessary. Scout well.
  • Water is key to growing rice after wheat.
  • Do not wait for seeds to germinate to flush. It is too hot to wait, and any delay will result in loss of good growing conditions and will delay harvest even later.
  • Once herbicides have been applied, flush the field to encourage early emergence and take advantage of good plant growth period.

To encourage the use of a rice hybrid in late-planting or double-cropped situations, RiceTec, which markets hybrid rice, is offering a deferred payment program for XL-7 and XL-8. For more information, call 877-580-7423.

e-mail: [email protected].

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