“We added another new pivot in 2012,” Dale says, “but we had frequent rains after July 4 and never even made one circle with it. Still, I’d rather have had it and not needed it than to have needed it and not had it. Being able to water our crops has made a real difference: We saw a substantial yield bump as we added irrigation.”

Corn yields in 2012 were 194 bushels irrigated and 125 bushels dryland; soybean yields were 60.5 bushels irrigated and 57 bushels dryland.

This year, Paul and Dale are farming about 1,475 acres, split about 50/50 between corn and beans. They had 305 acres of winter wheat, averaging about 68 bushels; that land was was double-cropped to beans. They try to rotate their fields between corn and soybeans every year. They rent about 405 acres, the rest is owned.

“In the past, we’ve farmed more — well over 2,000 acres,” Paul says. But because of my age and legacy considerations, I turned the home place over to my son, Philip, and he now farms that. My son, Steve, and his son, Ben, farm here and also in the Delta near Inverness.”

Paul, who will turn 88 later this year, “can get on a tractor or a combine and go all day,” says Dale, who is married to Paul’s daughter, Janice. “He’d rather run a dirt pan than play golf.” The two have farmed together for 30 years, and even before that, Dale worked for Paul in his farming operation.

“I try to keep up all our terraces, waterways, and ditches,” Paul says. “It’s a constant chore, but we want to do all we can to protect our soils, to retain all the water that falls on our land, and to keep runoff to an absolute minimum.”

Technology and advances in equipment have also made a big difference in farming, he says. “Growing up on my father’s farm, we had a 1-row cultivator and a team of horses. We had a Model 37 John Deere tractor for heavy work. Things have changed a lot since those days.

“This year we moved to variable rate planting, which we feel will allow us to better manage plant populations — and we hope, further increase yields. With yield mapping from the combine, we think we’ll better be able to see our strong and weak areas, and that we can improve those weak spots.

“As long as 10 or 15 years ago, we worked with USDA on testing of precision farming systems. We learned a lot from that, using yield monitors on our combines and doing yield mapping. And we still work with them. We’ve also had numerous test plots over the years with Mississippi State University and seed/chemical companies.”

They recently traded up to a John Deere RTK system, which they will use for the first time this year,” Dale says.” We’ll move it between our two big tractors and the combines, and we’ll probably add another unit later after we get some experience with this one. We think the year-after-year repeatability it offers, combined with yield mapping, will be an asset. It also has auto-steer, which we’re looking forward to using this fall.

“We also have a new variable rate CaseIH planter, and we’ll be able to use our yield mapping data with that for even greater planting accuracy.”

They have purchased a MacDon FD70 FlexDraper head for their 9670 and 9660 John Deere combines. “It is one of the best equipment investments we’ve ever made,” Paul says. “It is so much more efficient than what we had previously — grain flows through it like water, and grain loss has been greatly reduced. It paid for itself in two years.”

“We have more combine capacity than we probably should have,” Paul says. “But a few years ago, we lost one to fire at harvest time and it put us in a bind. Now, we the added combine capacity provides insurance against that, and it could be used by one of my sons if they should need it on their farms.”

Their tractors are John Deere 8330, Case IH MX230, and a Case Magnum 290, which they bought just recently.