“I bought a place four years ago that had eight fish ponds on it, and all I had to do was run polypipe from the ponds to the fields and turn the water on. Thus far, I’ve not had a year when I used anywhere near all the stored water; in fact, water from two of the ponds has been sufficient for irrigation.

“The increase in yield where I’m able to water cotton is striking — at least a 25 percent gain. It looks like our summers are getting consistently drier, and it’s impractical to drill wells here, so I probably will dig additional ponds so I can water more of the cotton fields. The ability to irrigate should also improve corn yields when I rotate to that crop.”

With Bt technology, plant bugs are about the only insect problem they have to deal with, Jan says, “and we don’t have them nearly as bad as farmers in the Delta. Most years, we’ll spray a couple of times; last year, we didn’t have to spray at all.”

Beyond Bt and Roundup Ready technology, he says the Boll Weevil Eradication Program has been “one of the best things the cotton industry has ever done.

“If it wasn’t for the program, we’d have long ago been out of the cotton business. There were many years the weevils just ate us up; there were seasons when I’d spray 22 times — I almost wore the leaves off the cotton from all the times the sprayer went through the fields.

“About the time the eradication program started, they were putting out pheromone traps so they could count and map weevil populations, and every one of our traps would be brimming full of weevils. I don’t think you could’ve ever counted them, there were so many.

“The first time I heard Kenneth Hood [Perthshire, Miss. producer/ginner and one of the leaders of the eradication effort] explain the program and what it could do, I was sold. I haven’t seen a weevil in years; it has made all the difference in the world in growing cotton.”

Bt technology, which provided a dependable weapon against the worms that had almost put a lot of farmers out of business, “was real lifesaver, and has been another tool to help us to stay competitive in world markets,” Jan says. They take their cotton to Vardaman Farmers Gin, about 7 miles up the road.

This year, Jan and Jason will also have 400 acres of corn, 2,000 acres of soybeans, and some wheat. Their operation also includes 800 acres of pasture, on which they run about 250 mama cows, and the rest is in timber, mostly pine.

“Our largest crop field is about 130 acres,” Jan says, “which means we do a lot of shuffling of equipment to get to all our fields.” They have farms in Chickasaw, Webster, and Clay Counties; about half their land is owned, the other half rented.