Fertilizing rice in a very wet year: Part I

Certain years stand out in farmers’ minds because of the events that occurred in the growing season. 1980, 1987 and 2012, for example, will go down as extremely dry years that hammered crops for some and brought higher prices for those fortunate enough to harvest a crop.

2015 likely will be remembered for just the opposite – it was the year when it wouldn’t stop raining, according to LSU Ag Center and University of Arkansas researchers who spoke at the LSU Rice Research Station’s annual field day in Crowley, La.

“2015 will be remembered as the year it started raining before we ever got rice in the ground, and it didn’t quit raining until we were well past mid-season,” says Dustin Harrell, Extension rice specialist for Louisiana. “We normally receive 26 inches of rainfall from planting to harvest at this station. This year we got those 26 inches in the first three months of the season.”

Dr. Harrell and Dr. Jarrod Hardke, Extension rice specialist with the University of Arkansas, talked about the problems the rain caused for growers trying to fertilize rice in both of their states during a tour stop at the at the field day July 1.

“Twenty-six inches by itself doesn’t sound like a lot,” said Dr. Harrell. “But when you put a whole year’s worth of rainfall in three months it really starts to cause problems.”

As a result, much of the state’s rice acreage stayed wet or muddy. “We had problems in a lot of cases where we couldn’t get the water off the field,” said Harrell. “So all this water really caused a lot of problems with the management decisions we have to make as a producer or consultant.”

The water interfered with stand establishment, resulting in calls to Drs. Harrell and Hardke about whether to replant; it played havoc with herbicide applications because growers couldn’t get ground rigs across the field; and the water and overcast skies led to more disease incidence, including any early episode with blast in Jupiter and CL 151 rice.

It also caused problems with nitrogen fertilizer applications. “If you think about what we recommend, we want you to apply nitrogen on dry ground, at least for that first shot,” said Harrell. “That’s why I invited Dr. Hardke to come here to talk about what we can do to modify our nitrogen fertilizer recommendations to accommodate these wet years.”

For more on weather problems in 2015 Mid-South crops, go to http://deltafarmpress.com/rice/rains-swamp-mid-south-crops.

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