By Scott McClure
Rayne, Louisiana, farmer Fred Zaunbrecher believes every release of a new seed variety should offer advantages over existing seed options, a step up that farmers can use to improve production potential.
He says the Provisia® Rice System is a great example of that progression and credits Horizon Ag for its commitment to bringing out varieties with new technology critically needed to control serious issues with weedy rice and resistant red rice.
“We were happy to be on the frontend of this because we believed Provisia rice would be a game-changer due to the weedy rice and red rice resistance to the Clearfield® technology,” says Zaunbrecher, who partners with his brothers Phillip, Paul, and Bill at GF&P Zaunbrecher Farms. “Those problems were so severe that it almost wasn’t worth putting in a crop because of the weed competition.”
With the introduction of PVL01 in 2018, the first variety for the Provisia Rice System, farmers like Zaunbrecher were finally able to begin cleaning up those problem fields and reclaiming the production that was being lost there. The only issue was that PVL01, like many first releases of a new technology, didn’t stack up in yield potential with others being planted.
“The technology was probably out a little before it should have been, but we really needed it to combat the problems we were having,” he says. “PVL01 grain quality was good and the Provisia technology did what it was supposed to do, but there were drawbacks with yield potential and blast susceptibility.”
The second Provisia release, PVL02, was available commercially in 2020 and was an improvement over PVL01. In fact, Zaunbrecher says it was, on average, among his highest-yielding varieties that year and had exceptional milling quality. He planted more acres to PVL02 this season but saw both yields and cut rates drop, likely due to a variety of factors like challenging weather early and unexpected disease problems despite their fungicide program.
That’s why he is excited about the availability of new PVL03 from Horizon Ag in 2022, a variety that has been shown to consistently provide even higher yields, excellent milling quality and outstanding resistance to blast and Cercospora.
“We planted 200 acres of it this year,” says Zaunbrecher. “Seed quantity was limited, and Horizon Ag wanted to put as many acres out as possible with fewer pounds, so for us, the seeding rate ended up being 23-24 pounds per acre. That’s not a lot of seed out there, but the variety still looked exceptionally good. We had yields in the mid-40 barrels per acre range and one field that actually made 50 barrels per acre. We were very pleased with that.”
He says plant stature was good, and it appeared to have good stalk strength. He liked the “big, bold look of the panicle that had lots of grain on it.” Cup weights were also impressive, and he expects some “some pretty decent milling yields once we finish drying it.”
“One thing I love about PVL03 is it has a terrific disease package with resistance to blast and Cercospora,” he adds. “Those are two of our biggest headaches during the growing season so, with those two, we let the plant take care of the disease and we didn’t have to supplement with fungicides.”
Because of those advantages and the overall effectiveness of the Provisia Rice System, Zaunbrecher expects PVL3 to be his Provisia variety of choice going forward, and believes his neighbors will as well, once they see how it performs.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what it mills this season and to planting more acres next season,” he says. “I’m anxious to see what it can do at a higher seeding rate -- the standard 50 to 60 pounds per acre we use -- when more seed is available.”
Dr. Tim Walker, general manager of Horizon Ag, is also excited about the positive impact PVL03 can have on making rice farming more sustainable and rice farmers more profitable.
“From the time we launched Clearfield rice more than 20 years ago, the mission of Horizon Ag has been to bring forward variety improvements that would provide solutions for rice farmers, like better weed control and disease packages, along with higher yields and milling quality,” he says. “PVL03 is an example of that commitment. It checks all the boxes.”
Louisiana trials in 2019 and 2020 showed PVL03 yielding almost 8,500 pounds per acre, outyielding Cheniere and putting it on par with top-yielding Clearfield varieties like CL153 in the Coastal Region. That performance comes with the advantages of the Provisia Rice System and Provisia herbicide, which have earned a reputation for providing the cleanest fields in the region and helping many farmers effectively overcome yield-robbing hybrid weedy rice and resistant grass problems.
“There is really no technology like Provisia available today,” says Dr. Walker. “Other seed companies are playing catch-up and making unsubstantiated claims about their performance potential, but the Provisia Rice System with Provisia herbicide has already proven to be one of the most effective weed management tools available for Southern rice. Provisia herbicide doesn’t require a safener like some other herbicides, so it’s going to be more effective. Best of all, farmers have seen it work and are using it to completely turn around thousands of acres lost to weedy hybrid rice and resistance issues. That’s something no other rice seed or chemical company can say.”