At 9:00 on this August morning, the sun is already scorching, the forecast heat index for the day is 115 or better, and Walter Oliver is getting ready to spray two of his larger cotton fields for plant bugs, along with a second application of Pix.

“It was wet when I planted here and I got a little behind,” he says. “Everything else has already had two or three applications of Pix. Otherwise, the plants would probably be head-high.

 “The cotton’s looking really good at this point. We got a nice Fourth of July rain and the last week in July we got almost 7 inches over much of the area. Unfortunately, it was too late to do much good for some of the corn. Some of it’s pretty burned up, but across the board it’s in pretty good shape. I’ll probably start combining toward the end of August.”

Oliver, who farms in Carroll and Montgomery Counties in north central Mississippi, has an operation that encompasses 100 or so fields, stretching 10 miles north-south and 15 miles east-west. The largest fields are 175 acres and 140 acres and the others range all the way down to less than 10 acres.

“It takes a lot of equipment moving,” he says, “but I’ve got a system for it and it works pretty well.”

The farms include his father’s home place, where Walter grew up, but most of the land he farms is rented.

“Dad [Bobby Oliver] and I farmed about 50-50 until he retired, and this is my third year farming on my own. He had always grown cotton, as did my grandfather, Sandy Land, who also had a cotton gin. I grew up in a cotton-oriented environment and, though I’ve grown soybeans and corn, cotton is my favorite. There’s just something about cotton — once you’ve grown it, it’s hard to get away from it.