UC Cooperative Extension has responded to the problem by providing outreach on UC IPM guidelines for monitoring and treatment. We have also cooperated with the California Rice Commission on getting Section 18 emergency approvals of methoxyfenozide (Intrepid 2F), which has been approved for the 2020 season. (For more information, please see CA Rice News.) Research and extension efforts have been led by Luis Espino, Rice Advisor in Butte and Glenn counties. He has conducted product efficacy trials and initiated widespread monitoring in the Sacramento Valley. In cooperation with Luis, I have been monitoring populations in Delta rice.
Monitoring involves scouting for damage and deployment of pheromone bucket traps that catch true armyworm and western yellowstriped armyworm moths (Figure 1). Because small armyworms are hard to scout and large armyworms are hard to treat, we use trap counts and Growing Degree Day modelling (i.e. a temperature measure of time) to determine when the worms are “just right” to treat, knowing that armyworm larvae can grow to full size in three to four weeks. During the season, Luis writes a weekly blog to provide real-time information on trap counts to help growers and consultants with scouting and decision-making. Please consider subscribing to the blog.
I have been monitoring populations in the Delta since 2016. This year, I deployed the traps about a week earlier than I have in past years. The traps are already catching moths (Figure 2), so it will be important to begin scouting for feeding damage. I will provide periodic monitoring updates using this blog, but for weekly updates, please consider subscribing to Luis Espino's blog.
Figure 2. 2016-2020 Delta armyworm trap counts. The trap counts represent counts of true armyworm and western yellowstriped armyworm moths. The counts are average across three San Joaquin County fields.
The 2017 season was marked by weather extremes, including record winter rainfall and high summer temperatures. Despite those, Delta rice growers generally observed an average to above-average season. Total acreage for the Delta south of the Yolo Bypass was roughly 2900 acres. For some growers, acreage was up because they were able to get ground preparation done early, but for others, acreage was down because the ground was late to dry out. Most of the Delta acreage is in San Joaquin County, with a few hundred acres in the “tail” of Sacramento County. The acreage was entirely drill-seeded, as is typical for the Delta, and planted with M.206.
Annual rainfall (October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017) for the region varied greatly by location. CIMIS stations for the south Delta reported rainfall from 16 to 20 inches, but stations in the north Delta reported 28 to 38 inches. Most of this rainfall fell in October through January. Spring rainfall lingered into the month of April, but accumulation of at least a tenth of an inch ceased by mid-April. Given the high organic matter content of many Delta soils, fields generally dried out for on-schedule planting in late-April through early-May, with few exceptions.
Cooler temperatures in the Delta, compared to the Sacramento Valley, make the Delta a challenging place to grow rice. The summer of 2017, however, brought many days over 100⁰F. This varied greatly by location, with some areas in the north Delta having approximately 10 days over 100⁰F and areas of the south Delta having 25 days over 100⁰F, according to CIMIS stations. Hot days meant warmer nights, which was a good thing for Delta rice culture. Delta rice can experience blanking due to low night-time temperatures, influenced by Delta breezes. We expect blanking to occur when the developing pollen grains are exposed to night-time temperatures at or below 55⁰ F for several hours. Across four Delta CIMIS stations, the average minimum temperature from August 1st to September 15th was 60⁰F.
Harvest was generally on-schedule and occurred from late-September to early-October. Anecdotally, yields were up and averaged over 90 cwt/acre. Growers suspect that the higher summer temperatures (including higher night-time temperatures) resulted in less blanking and higher yields.
Overall, Delta rice growers had an average to above-average year as we close out 2017. Let's hope for a similar 2018.
Please see this article on the UC Rice Blog for an update on armyworm populations. We will continue to monitor traps in the Delta through mid-September, and we will plan to monitor populations next season.