Biological Control of Hemp Sesbania in Rice

Hemp sesbania growing in organic rice in Texas

It doesn’t take you long to figure out the hemp sesbania (Sesbania exaltata) is one of the toughest weed problems we have in organic rice. It is an annual plant, but it acts like a tree as you can see in the picture. It has a few other names, but the most common other name I have ever heard is “coffee weed.”

In a recent meeting with organic rice producers this particular weed became a huge topic of discussion (mostly cussing). This conversation got me to thinking about the possibility of some “bioherbicide” or even some beneficial insect or nematode that might be able to control this noxious weed.

In the process of doing many searches, trying all kinds of names or phrases, I did find this article written in 2014, “Biological Control of the Weed Hemp Sesbania in Rice by the Fungus Myrothecium verrucaria.” (Just click to read)

The authors are at the USDA Stoneville, MS research station and do crops research but some of that research is on biological control of pests in crops. In this research they were looking at applying different rates of the fungus and at different weed plant heights. They looked at 3 concentrations of the fungus sprayed on weed plant heights of 4-8 inches, 8-16 inches, and 16-24 inches.

They did find that the best results were achieved when they used Silwet L-77, an OMRI approved surfactant, with the fungus mix. Overall, the fungus did best at the higher rate and on the youngest plants and control at that timing was 100%! That is phenomenal, but even the bigger plants had control levels around 90%.

Why don’t we have this fungus available to use? That is an excellent question and one I hope to find out soon. I am sure this research was put on the shelf because of changing rice herbicide strategies like Clearfield and the relatively small organic rice industry without much voice. But I think there is a growing interest in organic rice and as a result a growing interest in organic weed control in rice. More details are to follow!

“Beginner” Organic Training Class!

Okay, maybe this picture is not exactly a beginner organic class but by the next newsletter it could be you in the picture. I just love the one young boy off to the left, he is the future organic farmer!!

Mark it on your calendar, the first “Beginner Organic Training” program will be held on Tuesday, October 18 starting a 1pm and going through 5 pm, Wednesday, October 19 in Georgetown, Texas.  This “beginner” training program is really for anyone who has an interest in learning more about organic production, but it is certainly important and informational for those considering “the plunge” into certified organics.

Topics are being planned but include an overview of the Texas organic program, tour of a local organic nursery, soils and soil microbiome, cover crops for Texas, organic products & pest control, organic fertilizers, biostimulants and a compost tour, what’s involved in organic certification, beneficial insects in organic production and panel discussions.   Speakers include Extension Specialists, Texas Dept. of Ag. Organic Program, Extension Agents, Organic Producers, and more.     

We are working out the details for cost and a final agenda, but plans are to make it affordable, easy to participate, and fun to attend.  Put it on your calendar with more to come! If you are interested don’t hesitate to contact Kate Whitney, Williamson County Extension Horticulturist at (512) 943-3300.

TDA Organic Cost Share Signup

I got an email yesterday afternoon from Mindy Fryer with TDA that they were about to post the information for the Organic Cost Share program. You can go to the website here (TDA Cost Share Program) to get all the information you need including the application. This cost share allows you up to $500 towards your organic certification and the application is fairly easy to work through. As you can see in the picture above you have two folks at TDA to call if you have questions.

Texas Organic Rice Production Guide

Texas organic rice acreage has steadily increased over the past decade, driven by increased market demand. Since 1995, organic rice acreage has increased in the U.S. by almost six-fold, with a majority of acreage being grown in the Southern U.S. The acreage in Texas alone reached more than 19,000 in 2022.

Texas has over 70 certified organic rice producers scattered from Beaumont to Victoria all along the Texas coast with a few just south of Houston – still! These producers sell to nearly a dozen different organic rice buyers and this rice makes its way into several Texas grocery chains.

What are the major issues facing organic rice producers? Fertility is a concern with almost every crop and rice is no exception. Using organic cover crops though can be a real benefit to rice producers supplying 60 to as much as 108 lbs of N to the subsequent rice crop. In rice these cover crops have to be incorporated early, as much as 4 weeks early, to prevent a strange condition known as straighthead. This extra time allows the cover crop to break down with little to no effect on the crop.

Another major issue is having good organic rice varieties. Fortunately we not only have great Texas A&M AgriLife rice breeders we also have an outstanding Rice Foundation Seed Program begun way back in the spring of 1941. As researchers develop new varieties, Foundation Seed makes those varieties available to rice farmers including organic rice farmers.

If you want to learn more about rice and the rice programs of Texas A&M Agrilife go to If you want to read the Texas Organic Rice Production Guidelines publication go to And remember to eat Texas organic rice every chance you get!

Statewide Organic Training for USDA NRCS Personnel

This past week a nationwide planning team for organic agriculture training held the 2nd of four organic training programs for NRCS personnel in Texas. This planning team is made up of NRCS national and state leaders in organics, the National Center for Appropriate Technology, Texas Department of Agriculture and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.

The training is being conducted online and is held from 9am to 2 pm for each of 3 days. In this first training there were 27 active trainees who learned about organic agriculture, organic certification and organizations and agencies that work in organic agriculture. There are many programs and services that NRCS offers to organic producers and this organic training will help your local NRCS folks know more about you, your production and how to help!