2020 Yield Contest Winners
In 2015 University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) initiated the UCCE Rice Yield Contest as a pilot study in Butte county. The contest has now expanded to include all of Sacramento Valley. Due to regional yield potential differences, the valley was divided up into regions (1-NE, 2-NW, 3-S) using the Sacramento River and Hwy 20 as dividing lines (All fields south of Hwy 20 are a single region). Harvest and weighing are closely monitored by UCCE personnel. Yields are determined from a minimum of 3 acres from a 10-acre test plot and reported at 14% moisture. In 2020 we supervised the harvest of 13 fields which is a bit lower than we have done in the past couple of years and due to at least in part to COVID-19 closing the in-person Rice Field Day when we get the bulk of our sign-ups.
COVID-19 aside, 2020 was generally a good for rice production. A dry spring lead to earlier than normal planting and a dry Fall allowed harvest to proceed without interruption. However, wildfires and smoke were a big issue from mid-August to mid-September, although I am not sure if this negatively impacted yields. Strong north winds during the harvest negatively impacted grain quality. Yield contest yields were good in 2020 ranging from 101 to 127.9 cwt/ac. Milling yields varied widely this year and depended a lot on the timing of harvest relative to the two periods of strong and warm north winds experienced during harvest season.
For each region, the winners were Eric Sligar, Greg Driver and Gary Enos. Eric farms in Butte county and had the highest overall yields (127.9 cwt/ac). These yields are the highest we have recorded for this region (the previous high being 126.9 from a field managed by Joe Richter). The field was a new rice field and had been in wildlife habitat prior to this year. Eric planted M-211 as a seed field at a seeding rate of 144 lb seed/ac planted on May 4. Due to it being the first year in rice, he only applied 63 lb N/ac (three equal split of 21 lb/N ac each) and no P or K. He applied two herbicide application (propanil and propanil/Granstand). No other pesticides were applied. Greg farms near Robbins (S region) and his field yielded 123.5 cwt/ac. Greg achieved these yields using the variety M-209 planted on May 2 in a field that had previously been grown to wheat (rice was last planted 6 years ago). He used a seeding rate of 175 lb seed/ac. His total N rate was 161 lb N/ac. He applied a starter blend 20 days after planting and no top-dress at PI. His herbicide program was Bolero followed by Grandstand/Superwham. No other pesticides were applied. Gary Enos farms near Willows (NW region) and had yields of 111.4 cwt/ac with the variety M-209. This field was planted on April 29 at a seeding rate of 180 lb seed/ac and a total N rate of 162 lb N/ac. The starter blend was applied 4 weeks after planting and no top-dress PI application was used. For his herbicide program, he used Bolero followed by two applications of Propanil/Grandstand. Quadris was applied at early heading.
In the six years we have run this contest we are learning a number of things. First, high yields are possible from a number of commercial medium grain varieties. Winners have included M-105, M-205, M-206, M-209, M-211 and M-401. Second, yield potential varies from year to year (with 2017 and 2019 being low) and vary throughout the valley (the reason farmers compete with growers in their own region). Third, even at high yields, the head rice and milling yields remain good. Fourth, to achieve these high yields, fertilizer N rates were typical for California and generally range from 161 to 182 lb N/ac for the winners. Sixth, good, uniform stand establishment stand out as being important. In the contest, the highest yields typically have more than 70 tillers per ft2 at harvest. Finally, high yields can be achieved with a range of herbicide programs.
Good turnout for these contests are in part due to a prize that we offer. The prize this year is a John Deere side-by-side. The winner from each region will draw for the prize at the upcoming winter grower meetings in February. We were able to have this prize due to the generous support of our UCCE Yield Contest Sponsors. In 2020, these were (in alphabetical order): BASF, Corteva, FMC, Syngenta, UPL, Valent, Valley Truck and Tractor, and Wilbur-Ellis.
2019 UCCE Yield Contest winners: Greg Driver, Jack Sheppard and Gary Enos (left to right) drew to win the John Deere side-by-side. Greg won the prize.
The purpose of the California Rice Yield Contest is to provide an opportunity for rice producers and UC scientists to share information about intensive rice production in California and to recognize individuals who have achieved the highest yields in the state.