Controlling weeds and bugs while planting the highest performing variety was on the minds of some 500 farmers at the seventh annual Western Rice Belt Production Conference recently in El Campo, and specialists from three states delivered the latest news.

Researchers and Extension specialists from Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas agreed that the best use of pesticides and other inputs plus choice of varieties will make the difference this season – provided suitable weather occurs.

Dr. Garry McCauley, Texas AgriLife Research rice scientist, said rainfall at the Eagle Lake station is still well below average since measurements began in 1976.

"The lowest rainfall ever was in 2008, and we are still below average," McCauley said. "When we look at the month-to-month figures, there has never been a month with no moisture until October 2010."

He noted, however, that though yields dropped in 2010 from the previous year, 2009 had record yields averaging more than 8,000 pounds per acre.

"In 2010, yields were down to about 6,800 pounds per acre," he noted, adding that the later the crop was planted, the lower the yield. "A lot was planted late this year, and you can see how it tails off at the end. High yields were hard to come by."

But other than the unpredictable and fickle weather patterns, presenters brought good news to the farmers about possible new tools to battle pests.