Progress on South Africa Rice Research

It is the last half of the rice growing season in South Africa. I came here for 10 days in October with Matt Rhine, and Jim Heiser to help plant rice under Pivot 8 at the Ukulima Farm near Alma in the Limpopo Province.  Matt and Jim stayed and worked with the farm crew to fertilize and apply herbicides for weed control.  When Matt left before Christmas, he observed that a few of the rice plants were in the early stage of reproduction called internode elongation .  Earl Vories came and worked until the second week of January and now my wife and I are here until mid-March.

We still do not have propanil and quinclorac rice herbicides. But, with the help of the farm manager, we were able to find alternative chemicals this year which are used on other crops in South Africa.  I am finding small wandering jew and nutsedge plants between the row drills and in areas where the rice stand is thin. But the rice is already past the safe growth stage for applying herbicides. In case the weeds come up through the rice canopy, I have ordered sodium chlorate which can be applied right before harvest to dry the vegetation down to run through the combine.

One of the lessons that we learned last year is that an atomizer is needed to promote mixing of the injected liquid fertilizer in the irrigation water.  Last year the rice was dark green at the pivot, then became light green and yellow the farther you went from the center. Pictured below is the outside of the atomizer which was screwed into the injection port at the center pivot.  The rice is more uniformly green across the field this year.

From our experiences in flood irrigated rice in Missouri, we knew that rice needs to be rotated with a non-grass crop to interrupt disease and insect cycles.  In our current field, maize was planted in part of the field and the other part was fallow.  The rice is shorter and not as green where maize was last year. The best rotation crop for rice is a legume such as soybeans. Soil nematodes are a major problem here, especially on soybeans.  Planning for next year, we planted one-half of the pivot circle with cowpeas because they are more resistant to nematodes. In Missouri, people call them purple hull or black-eyed peas. Although cowpeas originated in Africa, most of the local people do not know what they are.  My wife and I looked for black-eyed peas at the grocery in Modimollie but could not find them. Farmers here mainly grow cowpeas for livestock feed and do not use them for human food. This is unfortunate, because cowpease go great with cornbread and they are a good source of protein in diets. Below is a photo of the cowpeas in one-half of the circle.  They are a hardy crop that requires little water to produce large amount for nitrogen and crop residue of building soil organic matter.














Last year some of our biggest challenges were getting rice seeds through the import permit process and into the country and controlling volunteer corn from the previous crop in the field.  This year, we are having problems repairing hail damage to the variable rate irrigation equipment which we use to apply treatments. We are having to use a backup system which applies alternating irrigation rates of 9 and 12 mm in 30 degree intervals (3 replications).  Shown below is the controller system at the center pivot point.

In October, I helped Matt and Jim plant a small plot variety/hybrid rice test. Most of the lines are not growing as well as the Nerica 4 that we planted in the big irrigation test.  But there are a few lines that are obvious improvements such a Nerica x Wells cross provided by Dr. Anna McClung, USDA-ARS. Cardi 70-3 from Cambodia is also looking good.





Below are dates of events

  • 10/17/11 – Planted rice and cowpeas
  • 10/18-10/19/11 – Planted small plot rice trial
  • 10/20/11 – Watered rice and cowpeas 12mm
  • 10/21/11 – Sprayed 0.2lb/ac clomazone + 2pt/ac paraquat (rice)
  • 10/22-10/23/11 – Watered cowpeas and rice 12mm
  • 10/25/11 – Cowpeas 0.5 oz/ac halosulfuron + 1.5 pt/ac pendimethalin
  • 10/25/11 – Rice 0.75 oz/ac halosulfuron + 1.5 pt/ac pendimethalin
  • 11/2/11 – Replanted poor stand areas Not in small plots (rice)
  • 11/3/11 – Starter Fertilizer (4-4-4) applied with 12mm water (rice)
  • 11/4/11 – Replanted 3 reps of tests 1 and 3. Watered in Starter fertilizer with 8mm water (rice)
  • 11/7/11 – Watered Rice 12.7 mm
  • 11/8/11 – Basagran (24 oz/ac) + halosulfuron (0.5 oz ai/ac) applied to Rice.
  • 11/11/11 – H20 Rice and cowpeas 12.7 mm
  • 11/14/11 – KNO3 fertilization (10.2 lb K/ac, 3.5 lb N/ac) 5% solution to Rice in 12 mm H20
  • 11/14/11 – Washed in Fertilizer with 5.6 mm H2O
  • 11/14/11 – First Signs of first tiller activity (10 % of Rice)
  • 11/16/11 – H20 cowpeas and rice 12mm
  • 11/17/11 – Ronstar (2 L/ha) application to rice
  • 11/19-11/20/11 – 35 # N/ac AN (18% N) applied in 12 mm H2O
  • 11/25/11 – 20 # N/ac ASN (18% N) applied in 6 mm H2O, additional 6 mm H20 to wash in
  • 11/25/11 – Sprayed cowpeas Basagran (1.16 L/ha) Imazamox (0.87 L/ha) Permit (40 g/ha) + NIS
  • 11/28/11 – H20 Rice and Cowpeas 12mm
  • 12/1/11 – 20 # N/ac ASN applied in 6 mm H2O, additional 6 mm
  • 12/5/11 – 12 mm H2O applied to rice and cowpeas
  • 12/8/11 – 20 # N/ac ASN applied in 6 mm H2O, additional 6 mm
  • 12/12/11 – Grandstand applied to rice at 0.5 L/ha
  • 12/17/11 – 12.7 mm fertigation, rice only
  • 12/18/11 – Clincher applied to rice
  • 12/19/11 – 12.7 mm irrigation, rice & peast
  • 12/21/11 – 12 mm (47%) irrigation, rice only
  • 12/23/11 – 5.7 mm (100%) fertigation (50 L/ha injector), rice only
  • 12/29/11 – started 12.7 mm, rice only, rained out (did not include in scheduler)l
  • 12/31/11 – 12 mm (47%) irrigation, rice only
  • 1/2/12 – 8.1 (70%) mm irrigation, rice only
  • 1/3/12 – 7 mm (80%) on pea; 12.7 mm on rice
  • 1/10/12- 12 mm (0.47 inch) irrigated on rice
  • 1/12/12- 9 mm (0.35 inch) irrigated on rice
  • 1/14/12- 9 mm (0.35 inch) irrigated on rice
  • 1/16/12- 9 and 12 mm (0.35 and 0.47 inch) irrigated on rice
  • 1/19/12 – 9 and 12 mm (0.35 and 0.47 inch) irrigated on rice(EZ Plan A reverse)
  • 1/21/12- 9 and 12 mm (0.35 and 0.47 inch) irrigated on rice (EZ Plan A forward)
  • 1/22/12- Last year I saw blank panicles early that I attributed to poor pollination from feeding from yellow and black spotted beetles.  But this year I am not finding beetles in the field. But many of the first head to come out have incomplete grain set.
  • 1/23/12- first big rain in six weeks.  The weather station recorded 0.38-inch yesterday evening and 0.44-inch after mid-night.  I measured 1.1 inches in the gauge at the Rice Cottage.