This strange production year, says Mathews, illustrates the resiliency of high quality rice varieties currently available to growers.

“The varieties were developed over time to withstand weather challenges and provide good emergence and vigor,” Mathews said. “Even the yields don’t fluctuate much with difficult weather.”

Frank Rehermann, FJR Farms, gazed with a satisfied smile as he peered through his pick-up’s windshield as he watched his combine clip his first fields of rice in Nelson in Butte County.

“It’s the best looking crop that I’ve ever had from one end of my operation to the other,” said Rehermann, 64. “I’ve never had a better stand of rice. I’ve never had better weed control.”

Rehermann is a first-generation rice farmer who entered the rice business following his Navy service in 1971. Rehermann’s father-in-law helped pave the way into rice.

Rehermann grew 720 acres of rice this year on rented ground. While he is pleased with the outcome of the crop thus far, the spring weather added frustration.

“This last May was the coldest and wettest May on record,” Rehermann said. “It was enough to exhaust one’s patience. Cold weather is not conducive to growing rice.”

Generating a rice stand took Rehermann a month to achieve, versus a more typical two-to-three week period. But Rehermann is all smiles. Early yields in fields planted with the M206 variety generated 9,000 pounds/acre, about 1,000 pounds less than his all-time record crop of about 10,000 pounds/acre last year.

Rehermann had few instances of sheath blight due in part to the aerial application of the fungicide Quadris. The amount of rice blanks (without full-sized kernels) fell in the normal 5 percent to 6 percent range.

Rehermann’s water use averaged 3.5 to 3.6 acre feet/acre — water delivered by the Western Canal Water District from the Oroville Dam afterbay.

Rehermann’s ground work in the spring includes tilling 2 to 5 inches of dry dirt on the soil surface. The ground is smoothed followed by a preplant fertilizer.

Water is added to cover the ground. Seed soaked in water for 36 hours is flown over the field at a rate of 150 to 200 pounds per acre. Soaked seed settles to the soil surface rather than floating on the water.

About 90 percent of California rice acreage is seeded by plane. The balance is dry seeded.